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Friendly Competition

Ask any law enforcement officer, and if they’re willing to be honest, they will admit there’s an endless competition between police officers and fire fighters.  Sometimes this competition is as simple as poking fun at the differences between assignments. Other times it manifests itself through seething disdain for society’s view of each profession.  There is no doubt the public needs law enforcement officers as well as fire fighters.  Each fills their necessary role at the public’s expense, but could the Illinois legislature be favoring fire fighters?

In 1986 the Federal Government passed the Uniform Commercial Driver’s License Act (UCDLA) which standardized the administration of the Commercial Driver’s License throughout all 50 states.  These regulations laid out who was required and who was exempt from having to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

Modern day regulations allow for emergency vehicle drivers to be exempt from CDL requirements while operating an emergency vehicle in the preservation of life or property.  This includes both fire fighters and police personnel when responding to emergency situations.

Cops in commercial motor vehicles?  Sounds like a recipe for disaster though there is a need for officers to respond to emergency scenes in mobile command posts or armored vehicles.

Police are not entirely exempt from the law however. When operating an “emergency vehicle” when there is not an actual emergency, both police and fire personnel are required to hold the proper license class for the vehicle they’re operating, as is the case with all driver’s exempt from the CDL regulations. This most commonly is the Class B, non-CDL license which allows the operation of a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of over 26,000 lbs.

Farming personnel, recreational vehicle drivers and drivers using a large vehicle for non-commercial purposes fall into the same exemption.  They’re not required to obtain a CDL, but are still required to obtain the proper license class.

The difference is how the license is obtained.  The non-Commercial Driver’s License is much simpler to obtain than the CDL.  The Illinois Secretary of State allows the issuance of a Class B non-CDL license after passing only a written test.  All those seeking to obtain a Class B non-CDL must pass the written test at a Secretary of State facility – everyone except for fire fighters.

Fire departments are allowed to send one of their own to the Secretary of State to become certified instructors. Once certified, these instructors may conduct on-the-job training and issue a certificate which firemen can then take to a SOS facility and obtain the license without taking the written test.

It might be reasonable to say that this is not favoritism toward fire fighters; however, wouldn’t farmers benefit from a similar program? So, why aren’t they?

It’s understandable why police are not able to earn their license in this way simply because fire personnel are much more likely to operate a fire truck in a day than a police officer is to operate an armored vehicle.  Or maybe the police can use this program but have simply not inquired.

In the end, it is not all that difficult to obtain your non-CDL license, but it is a good excuse for the competition between fire fighters and police officers to continue.

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