FMCSA Weighs Commercial Driver License Streamlining

Agency: Proposal Could Affect States, Third-Party Knowledge Examiners, CDL Applicants, Drivers and Motor Carriers
Student truck driver
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said that the proposal was based in part on a petition for rulemaking submitted by American Trucking Associations. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News)

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Federal trucking regulators are proposing to speed up the process for obtaining a commercial driver license by removing a number of regulatory restrictions.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said that the proposal was based in part on a petition for rulemaking submitted by American Trucking Associations. The ATA petition, granted by the agency in 2021, said that the proposal could “reduce regulatory burdens” and mitigate CDL delays experienced by some state licensing agencies.

“FMCSA believes the proposed changes will further address CMV driver shortages, enhance supply chain stability and provide appropriate regulatory relief without impacting safety,” the agency said in a Jan. 30 web post.

The agency said the proposed rule could affect states, third-party knowledge examiners, CDL applicants, CMV drivers and motor carriers.

The potential changes include:

  • A proposal to expand a CDL applicant’s ability to take a CDL skills test in a state other than their state of domicile; permit a commercial learner permit holder who has passed the CDL skills test to operate a commercial motor vehicle on public roads without having a qualified CDL holder in the passenger seat; eliminate the requirement that an applicant wait at least 14 days to take the CDL skills test following initial issuance of the CLP.
  • Remove the requirement that an applicant must have obtained training in the testing state to take the CDL skills test in that state. Federal regulations currently permit a state to administer the CDL skills test to an applicant domiciled in another state, provided the individual has obtained training in the state where the skills test will be administered. Such test results must be transmitted electronically directly from the testing state to the licensing state in a direct, efficient and secure manner.
  • States authorizing third-party knowledge examiners would be required to apply to those examiners the training, certification and record check requirements applicable to state knowledge examiners. Also, states would be required to include third-party knowledge examiners within the scope of the auditing and monitoring provisions currently applicable only to third-party skills examiners. As of Feb. 3, 2022, states may authorize the use of third-party knowledge examiners as long as they adhere to CDL knowledge test standards and requirements.

“In the case of CDL knowledge testing administered by third parties, the proposal would improve safety by imposing applicable training and certification standards for third-party knowledge examiners currently required for state-employed knowledge test examiners, and by imposing monitoring standards for third-party knowledge testers currently applicable to third-party skills testers,” the agency said.

ATA applauded FMCSA’s proposal.

Dan Horvath


“ATA is pleased that FMCSA is acting on our call to increase flexibility and improve efficiency in the licensing process,” said Dan Horvath, senior vice president of regulatory affairs and safety policy. “These proposed changes align with the bipartisan provisions in the LICENSE Act that ATA championed and would codify several waivers the agency issued during the COVID pandemic that made it easier for drivers to obtain their CDL during a challenging time.”

For years, regulators have expressed concern over the wisdom of using third-party testers. In a Sept. 22, 2022, Federal Register notice, FMCSA said it has become clear that state licensing agencies have increased their use of third-party administrators to help streamline a training, testing and credentialing process that has been fraught with delays to aid aspiring truck drivers obtain their commercial driver licenses in a timely manner.

“FMCSA anticipates that entities acting under the proposed flexibilities would incur cost savings via improved operational efficiency,” the proposed rulemaking said. “FMCSA cannot predict the number of states that would voluntarily adopt the changes set forth in this proposal and is therefore unable to quantify the increase in efficiency experienced by the affected entities.”


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Andrew Poliakoff, the Commercial Vehicle Training Association’s executive director, said, “The [CVTA] strongly supports the proposed rulemaking. FMCSA’s proposed amendments will reduce administrative barriers to skills testing and help new drivers access professional truck driving jobs more efficiently. Coupled with robust enforcement of entry-level driver training standards, these provisions provide flexibility to states and optimize the career opportunities for the next generation of well-trained transportation professionals.”

He continued, “While many states have reduced skills testing delays by effectively using third-party testing, new drivers in many states still experience delays where third-party testing is limited to public entities or employers only, where states deprioritize new third-party testing applications or where states otherwise create inefficiencies that negatively affect the process.”

FMCSA will accept public comment on the proposal for 60 days after it is posted in the Federal Register.

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