FMCSA Seeks Input on CDL Third-Party Training, Testing Programs
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Expressing concern over commercial driver license issuance delays and possible fraud, federal trucking regulators are seeking public comment on the effectiveness of third-party training and testing programs as they relate to CDL skills, knowledge tests and minimum testing standards.
“Many jurisdictions rely extensively on third-party entities to provide training and conduct knowledge and skills tests,” a Sept. 22 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Federal Register notice said. “FMCSA currently prohibits the same third-party entity from serving as both trainer and examiner.”
However, the agency said that current prohibitions limit the ability of jurisdictions to increase training capacity, which has resulted in the more frequent use of third-party entities to make up shortfalls between the demand for CDLs and a jurisdiction’s ability to provide training and examinations.
“There is a well-documented driver shortfall in the trucking industry and the use of third-party entities to conduct training and examinations helps with increasing examiner capacity and reducing delays in drivers being issued CDLs,” the notice said. “However, a challenge for FMCSA and jurisdictions is that to date, there is limited research available correlating driver performance with the type of training received — jurisdiction or third party.”
In recent years, it is 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 in helping aspiring truck drivers obtain their commercial driver licenses in a timely manner.
But what isn’t clear, according to trucking regulators, is whether the outside help with the delays is putting safer drivers on the nation’s highways, but at the same time injecting an increase of bias and even fraud into the process.
Federal regulations are intended to provide states with a mechanism for detecting potential fraud and ensuring that all requirements are being addressed, FMCSA said.
Which is why the agency is posing a number of targeted questions to industry stakeholders for help in evaluating the effectiveness of the third-party process.
The questions could help the agency with a research effort to assess the effectiveness of the entry-level driver training requirement, assess third-party training provider performance and verify/validate compliance with entry-level training minimum standards.
Earlier this year, FMCSA withdrew a proposal that 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 FMCSA regulations.
The agency said certain federal regulations are intended to ensure that all requirements are being addressed, but that maintaining proper oversight and auditing third-party training providers remains a challenge.
“The Training Provider Registry requirement for self-certification of compliance with the entry-level driver training rule and state licensing requirements adds to this challenge, and will require state driver licensing agencies to allocate additional resources to ensure third-party training provider self-certifications are accurate and meet all requirements.” the agency added.
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The project is intended to address these questions:
• Is there evidence of increasing or decreasing fraud among third-party examiners based on the pass rates and subsequent safety history of CDL holders who were tested by third-party testers?
• Are there significant differences in the outcomes of third-party testing on CDL testing?
• Would it be feasible to conduct a future study on the safety impacts of delegating CDL knowledge testing to third-party testers based on available data?
• How do the driving histories of drivers who received behind-the-wheel training compare to drivers who completed the new ELDT requirements?
• How do the driving histories of those who received theory instruction prior to the ELDT requirements compare with drivers who completed the new ELDT requirements?
• How do skills test pass rates of drivers pre-ELDT compliance compare with pass rates of drivers after the ELDT compliance date?
The agency is accepting comments to help its survey through Nov. 21.
“This will ultimately contribute to the safety of our transportation system,” FMCSA wrote.
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