Top Issues

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Testing Delays


To obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL), a student driver must follow a two-step process similar to that of someone seeking a traditional driver’s license. First, the driver must pass a written knowledge test to obtain his or her Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). The CLP holder must then wait a minimum of 14 days to take the behind-the-wheel CDL skills test.[1]

After successfully passing the skills exam and obtaining a CDL, the new driver is ready to begin their new career. Upon satisfying all requirements, new CDL drivers have little, if any trouble, getting placed in a well-paying job operating a truck or bus. The truck industry in particular is experiencing a driver shortage that was expected to surpass 50,000 drivers by the end of 2018.[2]

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets minimum CDL testing standards for all states. While all states must meet or exceed these minimum testing standards in terms of content, states are currently free to determine the entity that administers or conducts the CDL skills exam within their borders. States can either use state employees, such as examiners within its Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent agency), and/or delegate the testing function, in part or whole, to a state-certified third party, including commercial driving schools, trucking companies, municipalities, or independent test centers. This practice of allowing a non-state entities to conduct skills testing is referred to as “third party testing.” Forty states have adopted some form of third-party testing to ensure that there are enough personnel, testing sites and resources to test students expeditiously. Though states are not required to test students within a certain amount of time, delays in offering a skills test within a timely manner can create substantial hardships to students, motor carriers, and schools.

Current Problem

In 2015, the General Accounting Office (GAO) found that 15 states have CDL skills testing delays and backlogs that left students waiting 14 days or more to test for their CDL.[3] Students in eight of these states wait more than 21 days to take their initial CDL test.[4] Most importantly, because 20-50% of students fail their initial CDL skills test, students in states with testing delays are often forced to forgo income for additional weeks or months while waiting for a retest appointment to become available.[5] These delays are being further exacerbated by the fact that some states are closing down state run testing facilities either for budgetary reasons or due to their failure to meet increased size requirements for testing facilities. Since the GAO report was published, the FMCSA implemented new testing requirements,[6] which have actually increased delays in many states.

Delays are primarily due to lack of testing sites and insufficient personnel to meet demand. Additionally, states are either unable to expend additional budget resources to solve its delay problem or are unwilling to expand testing capacity—thereby reducing backlogs of CDL applicants awaiting a CDL skills test appointment—via third-party testing. The result is that new drivers in many states are not able to take their CDL skills test or retest in a timely manner. These delays also delay a driver’s entry into the job market and receiving of income.

Pursuant to Section 5506 of the FAST Act, in September 2018 the FMCSA released the Commercial Driver’s License Skills Test Delays Report -Calendar Year 2016.[7] This report disclosed skills testing delay times by state. The economic impact caused by skills testing delays are real and quantifiable. An independent analysis[8] (Economic Analysis) conducted for CVTA in 2018 concluded that:

  • Commercial driver testing delays resulted in $1.5 billion in economic loses across the United States.
  • $1.1 billion in direct lost wages can be attributed to testing delays.
  • Federal and local governments lost out on over $342 million in income and sales tax revenue in 2016.
  • 258,744 potential workforce entrants impacted by testing delays.
  • 6.4 million days of delays for new commercial drivers.

Federal and State Action

Industry concerns regarding testing delays prompted Congress to act. Since raising this issue, Congress has:

  • requested a GAO Report (2015),
  • implemented legislation in the Highway bill to require annual state disclosure of skills testing delays (2015),[9] and
  • introduced subsequent legislation[10] requiring all states to provide testing with 7 days of request (2017).

CVTA has made significant progress on the state level to also address this problem. We have:

  • worked directly with the Texas governor’s office to implement third-party CDL testing in 2017.
  • sponsored legislation (AB 301) in the California State Assembly to reduce wait times to seven days or less.
  • succeeded in getting legislation passed in the New Jersey legislatures that requires the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to implement a pilot program for third-party CDL testing. However, the MVC has failed to implement this legislative mandate.

Next Steps

CVTA’s Economic Analysis confirms that skills testing delays are causing real economic harm to future drivers and the U.S. economy. The significant economic impact demonstrates that this problem is national in scope and requires a national solution. Therefore, CVTA believes that Congress and the FMCSA must implement solutions to ensure states are meeting the testing demand in a timely manner.

[1] See 49 C.F.R. § 384.301(f) (requiring states to substantially comply with the 2011 and 2013 revisions to CDL regulations by July 8, 2015).


[3] See U.S. GOV’T ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE, GAO-15-607, COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S LICENSES: FEDERAL OVERSIGHT OF STATE PROGRAMS COULD BE IMPROVED (2015), 19-21 (Fig. 3) (noting that states reported using third party testing in order to increase availability or access to skills tests for prospective students, supplement state testing resources, cut costs, and reduce testing wait times) [hereinafter GAO Report].

[4] ID.

[5] GAO Report, supra note 3, 25-26.

[6] See 49 C.F.R. § 384.301(f) (requiring states to substantially comply with the 2011 and 2013 revisions to CDL regulations by July 8, 2015).

[7] Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Commercial Driver’s License Skills Test Delays Report to Congress-Calendar Year 2016, (September 2018).

[8] Pham, Nam D. and Donovan, Mary. Economic Impact of Wait Times for Commercial Driver’s License Skills Tests. NDP Analytics (December 2018).

[9] Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (“FAST Act”), § 5506, Pub. L. 114-94 (December 4, 2015).

[10] H.R. 4719, 115th Cong. (2017).

18- to 20-Year Old Drivers


Current Department of Transportation regulations require a driver to be 20 or older in order to operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce.[1] The Motor Carrier Act of 1935 (“MCA”) created the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), which was responsible for regulating the transportation of passengers and property by motor carriers operating in interstate or foreign commerce.[2] In 1937, the ICC created and implemented safety regulations for commercial drivers, which included a minimum age of 20 years old.[3]

Therefore, an 18- to 20-year old who has the skills and maturity to obtain a CDL and begin working as a commercial driver can drive 250 miles from Kansas City, MO to St. Louis, MO, but that same driver is barred from simply crossing the Missouri river from Kansas City, MO to Kansas City, KS. Moreover, federal law bars drivers under 20 from driving a truck within any state’s borders if the cargo on that truck originated outside of the state or will eventually leave the state by any mode (otherwise classified as “interstate” cargo).[4]

Since the requirement for interstate drivers to be 20 years of age or older is a regulation, not a law, the Department of Transportation can amend the regulation to allow drivers from 18- to 20-years of age to operate in interstate commerce through the rulemaking process.

Current Problem

Current limitations on commercial drivers under 20 are impractical considering under-20 drivers are permitted to drive intrastate trucks within their own home state boundaries. The age restriction is particularly problematic given the growing shortage of drivers in the trucking industry is approximately 50,000 drivers short of what is necessary to fill empty trucks.[5] This shortage is expected to increase rapidly over the next decade because of retirements and industry growth.[6] In fact, this shortage is expected to increase so dramatically that trucking companies will have to recruit an estimated 89,000 new drivers (net) each year over the next decade to meet these growing demands.[7]

Recent Developments

Congress included a provision in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act),[8] which creates a pilot program that allows certain veterans from ages 18-20 to drive commercial motor vehicles in both interstate and intrastate commerce. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a request for comments[9] in which CVTA urged the administration to adopt performance-based training requirements as proposed in the Entry-Level Driver Training Proposed Rule. CVTA also commented that the same training or types of equipment should be used by both the test group (18- to 20-year-olds) and the control group (comprised of 21- to 26-year-old drivers). This ensures consistency in the type of equipment being operated, which in turn ensures consistency in how drivers in the control and test groups are compared.

In the meantime, legislation introduced by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY-22), the Waiving Hindrances to Economic Enterprise and Labor (WHEEL) Act, expands this pilot program to include any eligible 18- to 20-year-old driver with a valid CDL and a clean driving record. While the original pilot program established under the FAST Act is a good start to verifying the safety of younger drivers in trucks, expanding the program to include any eligible driver aged 18-21 will provide a larger and more diverse study group from which to collect critical data. CVTA supports this legislation and is advocating for its timely passage.

CVTA is also examining H.R.5358, the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE) Safe Act sponsored by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA-50). The DRIVE Safe Act would allow a motor carrier to develop a 400-hour post-CDL apprenticeship program specifically designed for under-20-year-old drivers.

CVTA’s Position

CVTA supports lifting restrictions that prevent 18- to 20-year-old drivers from operating in interstate commerce with certain restrictions. Entry-level driver training (ELDT) standards, which are being implemented, will ensure all truck drivers will have a base-level proficiency leading to better trained and safer drivers. With the advent of new technologies such as advanced collision warning systems, lane departure warning systems, automatic braking, speed limiters, on-board video monitoring, stability control, automatic transmissions, electronic logging devices, and telematics, trucks are safer to operate than ever before.

As automated technologies in trucks become even more advanced, trucking is positioned to once again be a career of choice for many technologically savvy young adults. Additionally, vocational careers are becoming a more popular option for high school graduates because of the potential to acquire hard skills that are in-demand and lead to secure, well-paying jobs. The increased interest in vocational careers has given the trucking industry and policymakers an opportunity to mitigate the driver shortage. The post-secondary years are critical for 18-21-year-olds in making career decisions and should not have interstate trucking withheld as an option.

[1] 49 C.F.R. 391.11(b)(1)

[2] Motor Carrier Act of 1935, Section 204(a)(1)-(2), Pub. L. 74-255, 49 Stat. 543 (1935) (granted the ICC powers under section 204 created the ICC, which was a precursor of what is now the FMCSA.

[3] 2 Fed. Reg. 110 (January 22, 1937).

[4] See FMCSA Frequently Asked Questions: What is the age for operating a CMV in Interstate Commerce?, (last visited Feb. 6, 2017) (stating that individuals must be 21 to operate a CMV in interstate commerce); see also guidance relating to 49 C.F.R. § 390.5 (stating that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are only “applicable to drivers and CMVs in interstate commerce which transport property” and therefore, even “a driver transporting an empty CMV across State lines for purposes of repair and maintenance would be considered interstate commerce.”).


[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, Pub. L. No. 114-94, § 5404, 129 Stat. 1311, 1549-50 (2015).

[9] Commercial Driver’s Licenses; Proposed Pilot Program To Allow Persons Between the Ages of 18 and 21 With Military Driving Experience To Operate Commercial Motor Vehicles in Interstate Commerce, 81 Fed. Reg. 56745 (Aug. 22, 2016).

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Grants


Congress reauthorized federal workforce programs funded under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) through the passage of the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). As with WIA, WIOA allocates federal funds to states, which then push these funds into their local workforce through state “one-stop” workforce centers. WIOA funds enable unemployed individuals to receive training in “in-demand” careers. Over the years, WIA/WIOA grants have allowed thousands of individuals to attend truck driver training schools and begin their careers as commercial drivers.

Under WIOA, the “in-demand” occupation requirement requires state and local workforce boards to determine occupations that are in high demand based on local, state, or regional jobs data. In other words, under WIOA, grants will be awarded to pay for training programs only if state and local workforce boards have already determined that the applicant’s target industry has adequate job openings in that state or locality.[1]

Current Problem

CVTA believes lawmakers need to fully fund WIOA programs. WIOA remains a major source of funding to get individuals into trucking. Without robust funding, CVTA fears that less individuals will look to commercial trucking as a career option, thereby exacerbating the driver shortage. Additionally, CVTA is concerned about instances in states where driver training programs are not being classified as “in-demand” occupations. Specifically, CVTA knows of several workforce boards who have chosen not to list trucking as an “in-demand” occupation because it is based solely on local data. Thus, drivers in these states are denied WIOA grants to attend training because commercial vehicle driving jobs are not “in-demand” when, in fact, plenty of national trucking companies are anxious to hire them.

Although WIOA allows state workforce boards to choose which data they will use when determining jobs that are “in-demand”, CVTA fears that too much reliance on state and local data at the expense of national data may unintentionally discriminate against non-domiciled companies. As such, this may actually lead to an increase in the driver shortage. Furthermore, WIOA program metrics may need to be adjusted to capture those residents who are employed by out of state companies but remain a resident of their state. Otherwise, trucking companies will unduly be punished because they hire in numerous states but may not be headquartered in these states.

CVTA’s Position

To ensure that qualified job seekers in each state have access to driver training programs, it is imperative that all governors and workforce boards understand the current driver shortage and recognize that many trucking companies will hire from any state in the U.S. Therefore, CVTA urges members of Congress to:

1. Fully fund WIOA appropriations at authorized levels; and

2. Be prepared to act – through letters, appropriations riders, or additional legislation – should this be necessary to ensure that commercial driver training is recognized as an “in-demand” occupation or to overcome additional WIOA implementation hurdles that could prevent future drivers from accessing quality driver training programs.

[1] See Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, 29 U.S.C. § 3102(23)(B) (2014), also see (“The determination of whether an industry sector or occupation is in-demand under this paragraph shall be made by the State board or local board, as appropriate, using State and regional business and labor market projections, including the use of labor market information.”).

Automated Vehicle Policy


Advanced Driver Assisted Systems (ADAS) and Highly Autonomous Vehicle (HAV) technology has evolved from a curious experiment undertaken by Silicon Valley years ago into a real and ambitious commitment by the information technology (IT) sector, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and the broader ground transportation industry. As recently as a few years ago, it was assumed that automated vehicles would not be commercially viable until well into the mid-21st century. However, we can expect this technology to be deployed by the driving public much sooner given recent technological breakthroughs. There are already passenger vehicles currently available to the public that have some autonomous capabilities (SAE Level 2) such as adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, and lane departure warning systems. Commercial trucks are also adopting this technology. New technologies are advancing at an exceptionally rapid pace. If automated vehicles are the future of ground transportation – and there is little doubt that it is – all segments of the transportation economy need to play a role in guiding its development and influencing the policies that will regulate this new technology.

In 2017, two bills were introduced in Congress to establish a regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles. H.R. 3388, the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution (SELF DRIVE) Act passed the House on September 6, 2017. Companion legislation in the Senate, the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act is currently under consideration in the Senate. While the legislation focuses exclusively on passenger automobiles, it will likely set the foundation for future legislation addressing automated commercial vehicles. Both bills would preempt individual state laws regarding the manufacturing, testing, and deployment standards of automobiles in favor of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency leading the policy discussion to date.

Current Problem

For now, OEMs and technology firms, particularly car and light truck manufacturers, are taking the lead in developing automated vehicle technology. CVTA supports preemption of the current patchwork of individual state laws currently governing this technology. We believe this will speed up the deployment of life saving technologies. However, CVTA also has several concerns that we believe must also be addressed in concert with any legislation establishing a national framework for manufacturing, testing, and deployment of ADAS or automated technologies.

With the entry-level driver training (ELDT) final rule scheduled to be implemented in 2020, it may be necessary to amend the ELDT final rule every 2-3 years to ensure the curriculum and training requirements match the deployment of the technology. At the very least, the Department of Transportation (DOT) may need to determine whether a person operating a highly automated truck needs an endorsement or restriction on his or her CDL.

CVTA’s Proposal

CVTA proposes a five-point, common-sense approach as part of a broader federal framework for autonomous vehicle technology.

1. Require a driver. 

Any legislation addressing highly automated commercial vehicles needs to require the presence of a driver/operator/pilot/technician (driver) who has had formal training that meets the operational and safety needs of this new technology. Current law is silent as to whether a driver is required if a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is capable of driving itself. While industry experts believe drivers will maintain an active role in operating CMVs, there is still uncertainty. Therefore, CVTA believes that Congress should require a driver in any legislation. Doing so reaffirms the important role of the operator, while significantly mitigating cybersecurity or other system malfunction risks if encountered. Most importantly, it also provides short-term certainty for new entrants that this career will remain viable for the foreseeable future, a sentiment that most industry stakeholders share. Several CVTA school members have encountered individuals who are reluctant to enter the trucking industry because of the perceived threat that this will replace drivers, not enhance their ability to do their job.

2. Create an Advisory Committee to advise the Secretary on training, testing, and licensing. 

Training is an essential part of safety and training institutions must be considered when establishing the framework for ADAS and automated technologies. What is currently required to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) may change in the next 10 years. Therefore, CVTA believes a federal advisory committee should be created to proactively deliver recommendations to the Secretary of Transportation (Secretary) on commercial driver training, CDL testing, and CDL licensing reforms that will be needed as a result of ADAS and autonomous technologies. This advisory committee must include key stakeholders from the commercial driver training industry, truck and bus industries, safety groups, labor groups, motor vehicle administrators, state government, law enforcement, and CMV manufacturers.

3. Allow drivers age 18 and older.

ADAS and automated vehicle legislation in Congress presents an opportunity to mitigate the truck driver shortage by requiring the Secretary to develop minimum licensure standards for 18-to-21-year-old drivers to operate in interstate commerce. Currently, 48 states (lower 48) allow all drivers to drive CMVs in intrastate commerce. Requiring the Secretary to conduct a rulemaking to allow 18-year-old drivers to operate in interstate commerce when safety conditions dictate is sensible. Congress and the trucking industry will be able to fulfill current and future workforce needs, adapt to advancing technologies, and provide good paying jobs to a new generation of professional drivers.

4. ADA provisions.

Automated technologies hold promise for persons with disabilities. Currently, the FMCSA has granted certain persons with disabilities medical waivers to hold a CDL. CVTA would like the FMCSA to identify specific technological advancements that recognizes an individual with disabilities to be as safe or safer to drive upon being granted a medical waiver to receive or renew a CDL. Currently, the FMCSA is not required to identify these technologies and schools are unclear how to provide the training, particularly the over the road training to certain individuals with disabilities. We believe that adding this requirement helps training institutions evaluate whether they are capable of delivering such training in a safe manner by identifying new technology to accommodate individuals with disabilities.

5. Create V2V, V2I certainty by requiring the FCC to act.

Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications technology will play a critical role in improving highway safety. Sufficient broadband spectrum must be allotted exclusively for the use of dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) between vehicles and surrounding infrastructure to ensure safe transportation. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should be required to reserve all 7 channels of 5.9 GHZ broadband spectrum dedicated as Safety Spectrum. To date, FCC has failed to act, and we believe this will greatly increase the chances of having zero accidents in future years.