FMCSA Withdraws Proposals Impacting Efficiency of CDL Tests for Aspiring Truck Drivers

Source: Gallagher Sharp LLP

On March 9, 2022, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) withdrew two rule-making proposals that would have streamlined the testing process for driver applicants seeking a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

Under current regulations, states cannot allow a third-party skills test examiner to administer the CDL skills test to applicants with whom the examiner has also provided skills training. But a proposal published by the FMCSA in 2019 would have lifted this restriction on states. The proposed rule change was to alleviate testing delays, lower licensing costs, and reduce inconvenience for CDL applicants and third-party examiners, without hindering safety.

Following the proposal’s publication, FMCSA received 95 public comments from a mix of individuals, corporations, State agencies, and industry trade organizations.

Opponents of the change expressed concerns over fraud, conflict of interest, and examiner bias. Specifically, the concern was that “allowing the same individual to train and test the applicant could undermine the integrity of the skills testing process, thereby negatively impacting safety.” This concern was shared by all five States who commented (Virginia, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, and Missouri).

Supporters of the proposal, however, believe safety will not be compromised. They point to extensive measures already in place by state agencies to detect fraud. They argue the proposal would increase efficiency and flexibility of the skills testing process and reduce delays.

FMCSA was persuaded by the proposal’s opponents, stating concern over the integrity of the CDL skills testing process and negatively impacting highway safety. As such, FMCSA has withdrawn the skills testing proposal.

FMCSA also withdrew a second proposalThis proposal would have allowed a state to administer general and specialized knowledge tests to an out-of-state applicant, and require the applicant’s state of domicile to accept knowledge test results from the testing state. The rule change was intended to promote efficiency and flexibility in CDL issuance without adversely effecting safety.

Proponents suggest that, in addition to promoting efficiency, the proposal would enhance access for out-of-state driver applicants. In essence, it would remove the burden on applicants who must return to their State of domicile to take the knowledge test after training in another State. Thus, a more efficient testing process encourages more drivers to apply for a CDL, and means “more opportunities to fill the gap between the supply and demand of commercially-licensed drivers.”

All states commenting on the proposal said it would require changes to current procedures for processing knowledge test results. For example, some states would have to keep an applicant’s record “open” in pending status while it waits to receive the applicant’s out-of-state knowledge test results. Other states were concerned about costs. Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation estimated costs of approximately $525,000 to accept knowledge test results from other states. Further, costs to begin offering knowledge testing to out-of-state driver applicants would be approximately $1.6 million.

FMCSA stated, “Given states’ security and operational concerns surrounding out-of-state knowledge testing, including remote delivery of the [Commercial Learner’s Permit] credential, FMCSA concludes the proposed change is not advisable at this time.”

As always, we will continue to monitor this update and provide more information as it is disseminated.