FMCSA rescinds pair of CDL testing proposals

March 9, 2022

Mark Schremmer


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has withdrawn a pair of proposals related to CDL testing.

In a notice published in the Federal Register on Wednesday, March 9, the FMCSA pulled back a proposal that would have allowed a third-party skills test examiner to be the same person who provided skills training. In a separate notice also published on March 9, the agency withdrew a proposal that would have allowed CDL applicants to take knowledge tests in a state other than the applicant’s home state.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety lauded the moves.

“Along with the recently implemented entry-level driver training regulations, the withdrawal of these rules should better ensure that only qualified individuals receive their CDLs,” said Jay Grimes, OOIDA’s director of federal affairs. “We concur with the agency that the third-party testing proposal would undermine the integrity of the CDL skills testing process and negatively impact highway safety. In recent months, we have seen a variety of actions to help expedite CDL licensing and processing, even though hundreds of thousands of CDLs are issued each year. The agency must also prioritize additional actions that help drivers stay in the industry long-term once they get their CDL.”

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said that not allowing the testing to be administered by the person who provided the training is common sense.

“As (FMCSA) noted in a 2017 report required by Congress, a number of states do not permit third-party testing due to the potential for fraud,” the safety group wrote in a statement. “Allowing a trainer to test their own student would have imprudently increased these valid concerns.”

The safety group was equally pleased with the decision to rescind the proposal that would have allowed CDL applicants to take the test outside of the state where they live.

“A system in which CDL applicants are permitted to essentially shop for less rigorous testing options endangers all road users by potentially greenlighting drivers who are not competent to drive an 80,000-pound vehicle safely,” the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety wrote.

Examiner proposal

FMCSA published the notice of proposed rulemaking regarding third-party skills test examiners in July 2019. At the time, the agency said that lifting the restriction could alleviate delays and reduce costs for third-party testers and CDL applicants without negatively affecting safety.

The agency received 95 comments on the proposal, with the majority in opposition.

Lifting the restriction “would cause an increased risk of intentional and unintentional bias in testing results,” the Minnesota Trucking Association wrote.

FMCSA said the comments led it to withdraw the proposal.

“FMCSA acknowledges the notice of proposed rulemaking’s potential for increasing the efficiency and flexibility of the skills testing process and reducing skills test delays,” the agency wrote. “The agency is persuaded, however, by numerous comments citing the notice of proposed rulemaking’s potential for undermining the integrity of the CDL skills testing process and negatively impacting safety.”

Out-of-state CDL testing proposal

The proposal to allow CDL applicants to test in a nonresident state also was published in July 2019.

States responded critically to the potential rule.

Pennsylvania wrote that there is currently “no way to verify the person taking the knowledge test in another jurisdiction is in fact the same person taking the skills test later in the process,” adding that the Commercial Skills Test Information Management System does not provide a mechanism for verification with other jurisdictions. Montana wrote that it had “grave concerns about the real and substantial threat of fraudulent activity.”

The American Trucking Associations were among the organizations that supported the rule change, but FMCSA pointed to concerns from states as the reason for withdrawing the proposal.

“The notice of proposed rulemaking was intended to promote further flexibility in the CDL issuance process without negatively impacting safety,” FMCSA wrote. “All state commenters noted, however, that due to process complexities associated with the proposed change, state driver’s licensing agencies would need to implement significant changes to accommodate the receipt of out-of-state knowledge test results.” LL