Despite opposition, FMCSA changes CDL test rule

December 17, 2020

Mark Schremmer

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is moving forward with a final rule aimed at streamlining the process for commercial driver’s license applicants.

The agency announced the final rule in a news release on Thursday, Dec. 17. Current federal rules do not allow a CDL skills instructor who is also authorized by the state to administer the CDL skills test to perform both the instruction and the qualifying test for the same applicant. FMCSA’s final rule eliminates that restriction and gives states the discretion to allow third-party trainers to conduct skills testing for the same individual. The agency opted to make the change despite a majority of the commenters showing opposition for the 2019 notice of proposed rulemaking.

“During the COVID-19 public health emergency, truckers have been American heroes and the Department is committed to helping our economy by reducing unnecessary barriers for those interested in obtaining jobs in the trucking industry,” U.S. DOT Secretary Elaine Chao said in the news release.

FMCSA said the new rule is designed to alleviate testing delays and eliminate needless inconvenience and expense to the CDL applicant.

“Under Secretary Chao’s leadership, the Trump administration has continued to examine ways to provide commonsense regulatory reform and help individuals seeking to enter the commercial driver industry,” FMCSA acting Administrator Wiley Deck said in the news release. “This new rule will provide states more flexibility during the ongoing public health emergency to test CDL applicants and allow more drivers to safely enter the industry.”

The final rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register soon. Once that happens, there will be a 60-day public comment period.

History of the rule

In May 2011, FMCSA published a final rule amending the CDL knowledge and skills testing standards and establishing minimum commercial learner’s permit standards. The final rule included a provision prohibiting driver training schools from administering the CDL skills test to applicants who received skills training from that school unless there was no skills testing alternative location within 50 miles of the school and an examiner did not train and test the same skills applicant.

At the time, FMCSA said the purpose of the provision was “to reduce both the opportunity for fraud and unintended bias in skills testing.”

After receiving petitions that said the provision was too restrictive, FMCSA revised the rule in 2013 to allow CDL training schools to test the applicants as long as the trainer didn’t administer the test.

In 2017, SAGE Trucking Schools recommended that FMCSA eliminate the provision, saying that state-based CDL testing compliance agencies have many other effective tools to prevent fraud, and that the rule is costly and inconvenient to third-party testers and applicants.

FMCSA, in July 2019, issued a notice of proposed rulemaking stating that the agency agreed with SAGE’s recommendation to remove the restriction.

Comments

The agency is now moving forward with the change despite a majority of the 95 commenters opposing the proposal.

“Most commenters opposed the NPRM, citing concerns about fraud, conflict of interest, or examiner bias, should the restriction be lifted,” FMCSA wrote. “Those supporting the proposal cited other available fraud detection resources, potential reduction in skill testing delays, and increased flexibility and efficiencies for both applicants and third party testers.”

Among the opposition, the Minnesota Trucking Association said removing the restriction “would cause an increased risk of intentional and unintentional bias in testing results.”

Meanwhile, the Commercial Vehicle Training Association contended that “third-party testing occurs within a powerful network of state and federal regulation … which upholds the integrity of the examination process because it monitors examiner activity to prevent fraud.” LL

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Mark Schremmer

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.