by Albert Sommers, Representative House District 20
December 9, 2014
On December 2, I attended a Joint Transportation Meeting in Cheyenne to defend a bill I drafted, which provides fairness to Wyoming drivers by providing consistency with our neighboring states. Wyoming currently has two parallel driverís license structures - a commercial and non-commercial driverís license section. Both sections have Class A and B licenses, which involve vehicle combinations with Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings over 26,001lbs. The federal government regulates this size vehicle by requiring states to issue commercial driverís licenses, but it also allows states to exempt four classes of vehicles: (1) agricultural vehicles within 150 miles of the farm/ranch, when driven by the farmer, family member, or employee; (2) recreational vehicles, like fifth wheels; (3) emergency vehicles, like fire trucks; and (4) military vehicles.
I have heard confusion and concern statewide about this dual classification system, primarily because our pickups have evolved (increasing GVWR), yet our laws have not changed since the 26,001 lb. weight limit was established in 1989. I have heard complaints from farmers, firemen, ranchers and recreational vehicle owners. Utah, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, and even Colorado have exemptions for agricultural, recreational, emergency, and military vehicles in their commercial driverís license laws. None of our surrounding states have a non-commercial Class A and B driverís license system. Most states have a Class A, B, and C Commercial Driverís License, and a base license for general motorists like our non-commercial Class C.
My bill, which the Joint Transportation Committee passed on to the legislature by a narrow vote, would provide exemptions from obtaining non-commercial Class A & B driverís licenses for the categories I described above, and update the Commercial Driverís License exemptions to be consistent with current federal rules.
The Wyoming Department of Transportation and the committee expressed concern about safety, and I will try to address those concerns with amendments during the upcoming legislative session. One amendment would require anyone driving a vehicle over 26,001lbs to be 18 years of age or older. Wyoming citizens need to realize that recreational and farm vehicles from all of our neighboring states can drive in Wyoming with those statesí base driverís licenses, no additional testing or training. There are probably more out-of-state recreational vehicles driven through Yellowstone National Park and across I-80, using other statesí base driverís license than there are farm and ranch vehicles in Wyoming. We need to be safe, but we also need to be fair to Wyoming drivers. If you have any questions or concerns please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.