In order to drive a commercial motor vehicle, one must pass a number of required tests, the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) written and skills exams are two such tests. The skills exam portion requires the applicant to properly demonstrate his or her driving skills. The federal government established a minimum set of standardized skills tests which all States must utilize. However, states have the discretion of establishing more stringent testing standards if they believe it will enhance safety.
The federal government allows States to test applicants using “Third Party testing”. Third Party testing is where a State delegates the testing function, in whole or part, to State certified, non-governmental third party CDL examiners (school, contractor, or employer) to certify that an individual has successfully demonstrated the driving skills portion of the CDL test. In 2013, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) amended the Commercial Driver’s License Testing and Commercial Learner’s Permit Standards Final Rule1 to allow CDL training schools to act as an examiner and test their own student applicants, so long as an individual examiner does not administer the skills test to drivers he or she has trained. The reason the FMCSA has allowed States to conduct Third Party testing is to reduce the bottle neck at state facilities caused by insufficient funding for staffing and/or facilities for CDL testing. This alternative can improve government efficiency, reduce State costs, and allow States the greatest amount of flexibility in determining the right regulatory regime for that State.
In a number of States, CDL applicants are facing severe wait times to attempt their CDL skills test as a result of the State’s decision to not adopt a Third Party testing program. CDL applicants are facing these delays when their skills are honed. CDL applicants are harmed since they cannot enter the job market, motor carriers are impacted since they are delayed in hiring drivers which they desperately need to meet business demands, and schools are impacted since they often need to procure additional equipment or dedicate current equipment to sit at state testing sites which should be allocated for other students undergoing instruction.
Our data shows that 29 States offer third party testing.2 Of these 29 States, 12 offer it through a very restricted program only; meaning through a community college only.3 An additional 12 States only conduct testing through State funded officials or sites. While FMCSA regulations allow States the flexibility to determine whether or not they will permit third party testing, this flexibility needs to be reexamined to focus on States which have wait times longer than a few days.
Our research suggests that the average testing time delay in States which utilize State funded sites only is currently 14 to 45 days between requesting a test schedule and the actual skills testing date. In contrast, testing delay times in States which utilize Third Party Testing on a restricted basis range from 6 to 30 days from scheduling to actual testing. States which fully utilize the Third Party Testing allowing Trucking schools to conduct skills tests experience no delay since they are performed as needed.
The Commercial Driver’s License Testing and Commercial Learner’s Permit Standards Final Rule attempts to unify the CDL permit process among all States, which CVTA supports. The Final Rule, however, does not address unnecessary delays caused by States unwillingness to implement a true Third Party Testing program. As a result, more CDL applicants will be delayed from entering the workforce, businesses are delayed in hiring employees, and schools must dedicate equipment which could otherwise be used to train existing students.
As Congress considers proposals to include in the MAP-21 Reauthorization, CVTA urges Congress to require a study on the benefits of the Third Party Testing. In this study, we would like to know the economic impact resulting from delays and suggested ways in which States could reduce their testing delay times.
1 Commercial Driver’s License Testing and Commercial Learner’s Permit Standards, 78 Fed. Reg. 17875 (March, 25, 2013) (amending the Final Rule to allow Third Party testing).
2 Data from AAMVA 2013 survey and 2014 CVTA membership survey were combined to determine current State testing methods.