The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) governs how commercial drivers are licensed nationwide. 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 a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP). Later, the driver must pass a behind the wheel “skills” test to obtain a CDL.
Though FMCSA has adopted a minimum set of standardized tests that all states must utilize when skills testing a driver, the federal government allows states to use a number of different options to administer the skills test to new drivers. States can test applicants themselves through their Department of Motor Vehicles, or they can use “Third Party Testing.” States using Third Party Testing delegate the testing function, in whole or part, to state certified, non-governmental third party CDL examiners – such as contractors, or employers – who administer the skills test required for a CDL.
In 2013, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration amended the Commercial Driver’s License Testing and Commercial Learner’s Permit Standards Final Rule to allow more options for states who decide to use Third Party Testers. Specifically, the amendment allowed CDL training schools to test their own student applicants so long as an individual examiner does not administer the skills test to drivers he or she has trained. FMCSA decided to allow states to conduct Third Party Testing through driver training schools in order to reduce the existing bottlenecks at state facilities, which are caused by insufficient funding for CDL testing staff and/or facilities.
CURRENT PROBLEM AND RECENT ACTIVITY
In many states, students are facing severe wait times to schedule their initial CDL skills test. Delays can range anywhere from 2 weeks to 7 weeks depending on the state. Should a student fail on their first attempt, he or she will face a similar delay time to reschedule the skills test. This is causing great hardships on students. They are unable to enter the workforce without first obtaining their CDL, they must continue to finance daily living without a job, and their skills may erode since their skills are at their peak upon leaving training. Motor carriers are also harmed by these delays because there are not enough new CDL holders available to fill the growing driver shortage. Schools are also harmed by these delays because they often need to procure additional equipment or dedicate existing equipment to sit at backlogged state testing sites until their students are finally tested.
In 2014, 22 Members of Congress asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate these delays. While the GAO is still conducting its investigation, CVTA anticipates that a report should be published by July 2015. We further anticipate that GAO will confirm what our members and students experience on a daily basis.
While CVTA awaits the report from the GAO, we believe Congress should take action on this matter in the Highway Bill. CVTA requests that Congress insert report language noting the problem and strongly advising FMCSA to reduce wait times to no more than 7 days or require a state to allow Third Party testing.
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).