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August 6, 2020 2:45 PM, EDT

CVTA: Driver Learner Permit, CDL Testing Delays Persist

Kentucky CDL testingA Truck Training America student drives through the Kentucky State Police CDL test track and road course in Louisville, Ky. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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More than one-third of state driver’s license agencies continue to face moderate to significant delays in conducting commercial learner permit knowledge tests, commercial driver license skills tests or actual issuance of the physical learner permits, according to a new survey by the Commercial Vehicle Training Association.

“Delays in obtaining CLP appointments range from two weeks to 90 days in at least 15 states, with most averaging between 30- and 60-day delays,” CVTA President Don Lefeve said. “Other states’ delays have similar extensive wait times, but these delays are more regional or even local in scope.”

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, state licensing agencies have significantly curtailed services.

Don Lefeve, president of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association

Lefeve

Lefeve said CVTA conducted the survey Aug. 4-5, reaching out to a large number of its 250 members — many of which have training locations in a number of states.

“We knew that there was a problem in some states,” Lefeve said. “But it’s a little more widespread than we had even imagined.”

Lefeve declined to identify the states that are having troublesome delays. However, he noted that Texas and Tennessee are doing the best job at conducting timely testing and processing learner and CDL documents.

“Based on the survey response, we believe the significant delays center around those states using online appointment systems [as opposed to a walk-in policy], those states that do not use third-party testing or prohibit schools from third-party testing, or those states that use third-party testing but have not adopted the [Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s] CLP waiver, which allows third-party testers to administer the knowledge test,” Lefeve told Transport Topics.

“Another challenge is the delay between a student passing their skills test and obtaining their physical CDL, which could require the student to again make an appointment through the online appointment system,” he added.

Earlier this year, CVTA estimated that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States would produce 60% of the new drivers it has in previous years.

“Given the continued delays in CDL licensing, we are reviewing our estimate of that goal to determine if this needs to be revised downward,” Lefeve said. “Compared to a normal year, this is night and day. We’re still operating under limited circumstances, even in the best of states right now.”

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Many of the delays tend to be in state driver license agencies that do not permit third-party testers, meaning those that are not state employees, according to CVTA. Ten states do not permit third-party testers.

“Some states just don’t like third-party testers, think it’s unsafe, even though 80% of all states have some form of it. Some have raised safety concerns, despite there being zero evidence,” Lefeve said.

Lefeve also noted that a student can’t train on a public highway without first getting a learner permit, which further slows the candidacy of potential new drivers. “Even then, you must have a commercial driver license driver in the cab or sleeper berth,” he said. “If you can’t go out on the open road, it’s pretty hard to learn how to drive a truck.”

He added, “Even if you have a learner permit, many carriers won’t hire you unless you have a CDL.”

On July 1, FMCSA extended until Sept. 30 a COVID-19 emergency waiver from certain regulations applicable to interstate and intrastate commercial driver license and commercial learner permit holders, and to other interstate drivers operating CMVs.

Among other things, the waiver extended the maximum renewal period through Sept. 30 for CDL and CLP validity for renewal on due or after March 1, 2020, and without requiring the CLP holders to retake the general and endorsement knowledge tests.

“FMCSA allowed states a lot of flexibility, but all states aren’t taking advantage of the waivers,” Lefeve said.

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