ARDEN HILLS, Minn. (WCCO) -- There's little argument that truck drivers are crucial to keeping grocer's shelves stocked and fuel in the tanks during this crippling pandemic.
Unfortunately, with state driver license exam stations closed since mid-March, no new truckers could hit the road.
That is changing this week.
"We just got permission from the Federal Motor Carriers Administration," John McKagan with the Department of Public Safety said.
McKagan is referring to a federal waiver which now allows Minnesota's eight DPS driver's exam stations to get rolling again. The department is launching a safe, socially distanced pilot-program to resume offering the commercial driver license (CDL) exam.
"Normally, the examiner is in the cab in the front seat," McKagan said.
Now, state examiners will mask up as they follow the applicant walk around the truck performing the license pre-check.
They will then open the passenger side door of the truck and strap in a tripod holding two cameras.
Instead of jumping in to ride along, examiners follow in a chase vehicle. They will issue directions while using FaceTime as a separate GoPro camera records the view of the road course.
"There will be two staff examiners there. One is driving the vehicle and giving directions and the other one will be monitoring the test via a video system and scoring the test," McKagan said.
For aspiring truck drivers like Nolan Lepel, it was a bit unnerving.
"It is different. I get in the truck and a guy was strapping on a bi-pod with a phone on it. It was weird but it worked," Lepel said.
For now it's just being tested for commercial driver's licenses only.
"We haven't forgotten about the 16-year-olds. We are considering a lot of options with more details to come," McKagan said.
Because suddenly, there are more hazards to getting licensed than just those on the road.
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