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Federal trucking regulators have withdrawn two proposals intended to streamline credentialing and testing processes for aspiring truck drivers to obtain their commercial driver licenses.
One proposal would have allowed states to permit third-party test examiners to administer the CDL skills test to applicants to whom the examiners also have provided skills training, a practice that will now continue to be prohibited under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations.
The agency originally argued that allowing states to permit the third-party practice may alleviate CDL skill testing delays, and reduce inconvenience and cost for third-party testers and CDL applicants without negatively impacting safety.
The second proposal would have allowed applicants to take the CDL general and specialized knowledge tests in a state other than the applicant’s state of domicile. The NPRM also proposed that the applicant’s state of domicile would be required to accept knowledge test results from the testing state.
In separate Federal Register notices, FMCSA said that public comments persuaded the agency to withdraw both proposed rulemakings.
The proposed third-party tester rule, published July 9, 2019, was withdrawn as of March 9, the notice said. The knowledge test proposal, published on July 29, 2019, also was withdrawn effective March 9.
FMCSA said it received 95 comments on the third-party testings notice of proposed rulemaking, ranging from trainers, testers and drivers to large industry trade organizations and state licensing agencies.
“Most commenters opposed the NPRM, citing concerns about fraud, conflict of interest, or examiner bias,” FMCSA said. “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.’ ”
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles 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.”
The Washington State Department of Licensing expressed “strong concerns with accepting skills test results from other jurisdictions allowing third-party skills test examiners to test the individuals they train.”
It its comments, American Trucking Associations said it recognizes all professions have bad actors, but noted that FMCSA’s responsibility is to implement effective safeguards and deterrents that identify and prevent those individuals from operating commercial motor vehicles on the nation’s roadways.
“However, FMCSA is also responsible for balancing the costs of implementing those safeguards with the needs of the trucking industry,” ATA wrote. “ATA believes that eliminating the prohibition preventing third-party skills test examiners from administering the CDL skills test to applicants when the examiners also provided skills training will have no adverse effect on safety.”
When it originally posted the proposal that would allow CDL knowledge testing in states other than an individual’s domicile, FMCSA argued that it could streamline the CDL application progress.
All state commenters said the proposal would require changes in current procedures for processing knowledge test results and issuing learner permits — that they would need to revise current processes to allow an applicant’s record to remain “open” in pending status while waiting to receive the applicant’s out-of-state knowledge test results.
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The California Department of Motor Vehicles questioned how it would receive the completion of knowledge testing notification from the testing state.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation estimated the out-of-state testing arrangement would cost approximately $525,000 for the system changes needed to accept knowledge test results from other states, and a cost of approximately $1.6 million to begin offering knowledge testing to out-of-state driver applicants.
Other states noted there would be costs associated with changing existing systems and processes to accept test results from other states but did not quantify the amounts.
“Given states’ security and operational concerns surrounding out-of-state knowledge testing, including remote delivery of the commercial learner permit credential, FMCSA concludes the proposed change is not advisable at this time,” the agency said.