COLUMBIA - South Carolina is making it easier for military men and women who drove military trucks and are hanging up their uniforms to get a civilian driver's license for commercial vehicles, officials announced Thursday.
South Carolina Adjutant General Robert Livingston said the move is one more way the state can help veterans who are transitioning to civilian life as the Pentagon shrinks the size of its ranks.
"Helping our service members ... and ensuring they can take care of themselves is something we must do on a continuous basis," said the two-star general, who leads the state's 11,000-member Air and Army National Guard.
The new option will be available starting Monday, DMV Director Kevin Shwedo, a retired Army colonel, said.
Shwedo said that although the military applicants won't have to pass the skills test for operating vehicles more than 26,000 pounds in gross weight, they will have to pass all other knowledge tests and meet federal regulations before getting a commercial license.
"Having served in the military, I know that service members go through rigorous training to learn how to operate the military equivalent of commercial vehicles. This change will make it easier for soldiers leaving the service to qualify and find commercial driver positions in the public sector," Shwedo said.
Shwedo and Livingston said they believe there are 500 soldiers in the South Carolina Army National Guard alone who could benefit from the change.
The military has a wide range of heavy, commercial-type vehicles, such as tractor-trailers, that are used to move the military's supplies, Guard spokesman Maj. Cindi King said.
Overall, South Carolina has undertaken various steps to assist members of the service transition into civilian life. In February, Gov. Nikki Haley announced "Operation Palmetto Employment." It features a website that lists multiple information and education sources for finding civilian employment to help members of the active duty military or National Guard and Reserve, or members of their families.
DMV officials said drivers whose licenses were suspended, revoked, canceled or disqualified during the past two years are not eligible for the skills test waiver.
Applicants must have a valid South Carolina driver's license.
Active duty military personnel may apply while still in uniform or within 90 days after their separation of military service, DMV officials said.
They must have served in a military job that required operating a commercial motor vehicle in the military.
Forms for the application are available on the agency website and must be signed by the applicant's commanding officer.
Information about the test is available on the DMV web site at www.scdmvonline.com.
Susanne M. Schafer can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/susannemarieap