State House members in Mississippi passed a bill dubbed the "Jesus Take the Wheel Act" by one lawmaker last Thursday, which would allow drivers of mid-size church vans to transport up to 30 people without a commercial driver's license.
Rep. Robert Johnson III, D-Natchez, who chairs the Transportation Committee said while the bill, HB 132, is expected to apply to all churches equally, it is especially designed for smaller churches with limited resources.
"This just allows small churches, some don't have people with commercial licenses at all, and they can pick a person to drive the bus," Johnson told the Clarion-Ledger.
Following the passage of the bill in the House, State Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg tweeted: "Maybe we should rename HB 132, which would exempt church vans and buses from CDL requirements, the 'Jesus Take the Wheel Act.'"
The vans will be free to carry small children to youth camps and other events. The church van drivers will also not be required to have the state passenger transport endorsement, which most bus drivers in Mississippi are required to have.
Maybe we should rename HB 132, which would exempt church vans and buses from CDL requirements, the "Jesus Take the Wheel Act."— Toby Barker (@toby_barker) February 5, 2015
Despite the support from the Mississippi House, not everyone thinks HB 132 is a bright idea. Veteran CDL-certified driver Troy Coll of Hattiesburg told the Ledger that allowing church van drivers to transport people without CDL certification would be potentially dangerous.
"I think this bill is trading the safety of everyone on the road for the convenience of those operating church vehicles," Coll said. "Since the bill covers vehicles up to 30 passengers, we're not just talking vans with extra rows of seats – these are buses, with long frames and much larger blind spots than passenger vehicles."
"Obtaining a CDL is not especially difficult," Coll added, "but the testing does increase the level of scrutiny on drivers, and the medical requirements prevent individuals with poor vision/hearing/motor control or untreated diabetes from driving large vehicles full of vulnerable passengers."