WASHINGTON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is dropping two proposed commercial driver’s licensing (CDL) rule changes that were introduced as part of efforts to streamline the credentialing and testing process for new drivers.
According to a listing on the Federal Register, the FMCSA is withdrawing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would have allowed states to use a third-party skills test examiner to administer the commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test to applicants to whom they had also provided skills training.
FMCSA is also withdrawing an NPRM that would have allowed driver applicants to take CDL general and specialized knowledge tests in a state (the testing state) other than the applicant’s home.
This NPRM also noted that the applicant’s home state would have been required to accept knowledge test results from the testing state.
The FMCSA wrote in the Federal Register filing that the decision to remove the rule change considerations was based on comments received from industry stakeholders.
Regarding out-of-state test taking, Pennsylvania noted 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.”
Virginia also noted security concerns, stating that “the requirement to issue a CLP (commercial learner’s permit) remotely undermines the current processes Virginia has in place to ensure that a credential is securely issued to the applicant.”
California also expressed concern over the proposed remote delivery requirement, questioning how secure delivery could be assured if the CLP credential was sent to an address outside their state.
Montana noted “grave concerns about the real and substantial threat of fraudulent activity” if Montana is required to issue a CLP to an applicant who does not personally appear at a Montana driver license location. Minnesota and Virginia cited ongoing difficulties in the processing of out-of-state skills testing results, which could carry over to the processing of knowledge testing results.
Regarding third-party testing, the FMCSA Federal Register post noted that most commenters opposed the NPRM, citing concerns about fraud, conflict of interest or examiner bias.
These commenters argued that allowing the same individual to train and test the applicant could undermine the integrity of the skills testing process, thereby negatively impacting safety.
As one individual noted, “The proposed rule removes the necessary impartiality of the CDL examiner, allowing the instructor to fail or pass student drivers with whom they have developed a relationship. This is not a fair assessment of the candidates’ abilities.”
A commenter identifying as a trainer with 22 years of experience expressed a similar concern, explaining that “the reason another trainer has to test my student is to prevent bias or just passing them along.”
Another commenter said that, while some companies “will do due diligence to make sure drivers are trained properly,” lifting the restriction would remove necessary checks and balances from the skills testing process.
The Minnesota Trucking Association stated that lifting the restriction “would cause an increased risk of intentional and unintentional bias in testing results.”
One individual observed that current alternative approaches to detecting fraud in CDL testing, identified in the NPRM, “rely on the principle of deterrence rather than prevention . . . which allows unqualified drivers to obtain their CDLs and legally operate [commercial] motor vehicles on public roadways without proper training—at least until the fraud is discovered.”
All of the states that commented on the NPRM (Virginia, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota and Missouri) also raised concern that lifting the prohibition could negatively impact safety by undermining the integrity of skills testing.
As Washington stated, the NPRM “adds substantial risk” to third party testing “by introducing an apparent conflict of interest.”
Additionally, three states voiced concerns about accepting skills testing results for applicants tested in states that had lifted the restriction.
Oregon stated that, while the proposed change is “permissive in nature, given the requirement to accept out-of-state CDL skills test results, adoption by other jurisdictions will pose a risk that we have deemed unacceptable.”
Similarly, Virginia noted it would be “unable to guard against fraud in these situations and that unsafe drivers will be licensed to drive interstate impacting safety in Virginia and elsewhere.”
Washington expressed “strong concerns with accepting skills test results from other jurisdictions allowing (third party skills test examiners) to test the individuals they train.”
Born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and raised in East Texas, John Worthen returned to his home state to attend college in 1998 and decided to make his life in The Natural State. Worthen is a 20-year veteran of the journalism industry and has covered just about every topic there is. He has a passion for writing and telling stories. He has worked as a beat reporter and bureau chief for a statewide newspaper and as managing editor of a regional newspaper in Arkansas. Additionally, Worthen has been a prolific freelance journalist for two decades, and has been published in several travel magazines and on travel websites.