FMCSA Denies Florida’s CDL Skills Test Petition

Federal Trucking Regulator Says Applicants Cannot Continue to Take Skills Test if They Fail Pre-Trip Inspection
State College of Florida
A sign at the State College of Florida. The school's Lifelong Learning and Workforce Development program offers CDL courses. (State College of Florida via YouTube)

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Trucking regulators have denied a petition by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to allow third-party commercial driver license testers, at their discretion, to continue testing an applicant who fails the pre-trip inspection and then allow the applicant to come back at a later date to retake the failed segment only.

In denying the petition, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it believes that conducting the elements of the CDL skills test in the required order — pre-trip inspection, vehicle control skills test and on-road skills test — is the best practice for the safety of the CDL applicant, the examiner and any motorists who must share the road with the applicant during the on-road portion of the test.

“The sequence of the skills test ensures that an applicant has demonstrated sufficient knowledge and skills to safely attempt the next step in the testing process,” FMCSA said in the ruling, published April 18. “The current regulations also provide flexibility, in that generally, applicants are not required to retake portions of the test which have been successfully completed. Moreover, with the implementation of the federal Entry Level Driver Training requirements, the agency believes [state driver licensing agencies] should see a reduction in the percentage of applicants who fail portions of the CDL skills test.”

But in its September 2023 petition, FLHSMV said it operates as a third-party tester state, where nearly all CDL skills tests are conducted by third-party testers. In the past 12 months, Florida’s third-party testers have administered the CDL skills test to more than 35,000 drivers, the agency said.

FMCSA logo

“The department will benefit by having more opportunities to complete the required monitoring activities during one site visit versus having to make multiple trips to a site to complete” scoring a driver who fails the test, FLHSMV said.

RELATED: CDL Schools, Driver Training Programs Focus on the Right Fit

The state licensing agency said the pre-trip inspection is the most failed segment of the three-pronged test. If the exemption were granted, the tester could continue to test basic vehicle control and on-road skills even if the driver failed the pre-trip inspection.

“If the CDL applicant passed these other portions of the test, they could return at a later date and retake just the pre-trip inspection portion of the test,” the testing agency said. “If the petition were granted, the exemption would allow compliance staff to better utilize their time and resources in completing the required monitoring of third-party testers.”

FMCSA said it received 30 comments on the petition: 19 in opposition, eight in support and three with no position.

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles logo

RELATED: FMCSA Weighs Commercial Driver License Streamlining

Tim Kordula of Three Lakes, Wis., who opposed the petition, said FMCSA rules say a pre-trip inspection must be done, and the driver must ensure the vehicle is in good operating order before moving the vehicle, so allowing the test to continue goes against that rule and what the schools are trying to teach.

The National Tank Truck Carriers supported the petition, writing, “By allowing applicants to only retest failed portions, there will be an increase in the efficiency of the CDL credentialing process. Therefore, testers will have to devote less time and resources to areas in which drivers have already demonstrated their competency.

“The exemption request put forward by FLHSMV does not compromise roadway safety. Given the well-documented commercial driver shortage, it is imperative that we reduce barriers to individuals attaining the proper credentials for operating commercial vehicles.”

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