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.
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.
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.
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. Students in eight of these states wait more than 21 days to take their initial CDL test. 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. This is simply not a burden the industry can tackle without significant supply chain disruptions.
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.