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April 14, 2020 1:45 PM, EDT

FMCSA Expands COVID-19 Waiver to Accommodate CDL Skills Tests

FMCSAA driver instructor. (Paradigm Digital Group)

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has expanded its COVID-19 emergency declaration to allow examiners to conduct commercial driver license skills tests without being physically in the truck, using such technologies as in-cab cameras, online testing and cellphones.

FMCSA said in an April 13 announcement that in light of the COVID-19 emergency and the need to comply with social-distancing guidelines while ensuring continued movement of supplies and equipment, states may leverage certain technologies. Bluetooth, in-cab cameras and cellphones may be used to administer the CDL skills test in a way that allows the examiners “to not be physically present in the cab of the vehicle with the driver applicant while conducting the on-road test segment.”

The agency requested states that wish to administer the skills test without the examiner being in the test vehicle submit a plan and explain how their administration of the test will be comparable with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators model.

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“The plan should detail how the state intends to administer the test without compromising safety, observe the skills test from a second vehicle, leverage technology and score the road test, along with any other information the state believes will help FMCSA determine whether the test administration is comparable to the AAMVA model,” the agency said.

FMCSA said states may wish to consider, for example, either having two employees in a sufficiently large follow vehicle seated 6 feet apart or else having one employee in a follow vehicle while a recording device that is set up on the vehicle records the test, viewing the applicant’s performance after the examiner has stopped driving, and then immediately deleting the recording.

The agency said it will consider such plans until June 30.

“State driver licensing agencies must administer tests using a test examiner information manual that FMCSA determines is comparable to AAMVA’s 2005 CDL Test System Model CDL Manual,” FMCSA said.

The expanded waiver supplements an earlier three-month waiver that allows truck drivers with commercial learner permits to operate during the COVID-19 crisis without a commercial licensed driver in the front seat of the cab, provided the CDL driver is in the truck.

The March 28 waiver, recently updated, is in effect until May 15. The waiver also requires that the driver with the learner permit has evidence that he or she has passed the CDL driving skills test.

The agency has been attempting to wrestle with department of motor vehicle closures in 22 states, causing many driver training schools to have either limited their operations or close, according to the Commercial Vehicle Training Association.

CVTA has said it is critical that governors understand that they need to keep the state driver license agencies open to avert a driver shortage.

However, the FMCSA emergency declaration has said that a state shall only issue a commercial learner permit or CDL to a driver who has passed the knowledge and skills test.

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