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January 25, 2022 1:45 PM, EST

New York Works to Expand Road Testing Availability for CDLs

Kathy HochulGov. Kathy Hochul by Hans Pennink/AP

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Efforts are underway in New York to enable more people to conduct road tests for commercial driver licenses to reduce a long backlog exacerbated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles is slated to convene a public hearing Jan. 26 soliciting comments on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s new plan to address a critical shortage of truck and bus drivers. The goal is to expand road-test availability to qualified third parties and open testing to new non-DMV locations in the state, such as trucking schools.

“As we continue to fight this pandemic, we remain committed to expanding opportunities for New Yorkers, supporting our schools, and doing all we can to address the supply chain issues that have affected many businesses throughout our state and country,” Hochul said Jan. 12 when she unveiled the plan.

She said expanding those authorized to give road tests for commercial drivers will create new ways for New Yorkers to start careers and ensure the vital delivery of goods.

This plan is part of her efforts to combat a driver shortage. She signed into law a bill Dec. 3 to create a new truck driver training program for those from 18 to 20 years old.

Kendra Hems, president of the Trucking Association of New York, said her organization “helped encourage” state authorities in October to look at options to expand CDL road tests.

Hems said the lengthy backlog is a top issue for the association’s members.

She said truck drivers face a backlog of about six weeks in scheduling CDL road tests in the New York City, central New York and mid-Hudson areas. More testing sites are available in western New York.

This problem existed before the pandemic, with drivers unable to take required road tests for six to eight weeks. Last spring, the wait grew to two months.

Under the plan, truck driving schools could have staff certified as qualified third-party testers. Drivers could take their road tests there instead of having to wait for openings at DMV facilities.

Hems said she hopes to see the governor’s plan become a reality through a rulemaking process that could be complete by the end of this year. If so, it would be “a great win for the industry,” she added.

At this early stage in the process, the state is collecting information and gathering feedback.

The public hearing is to be conducted virtually via Webex. Written comments can be submitted to CDLThirdPartyTesting@dmv.ny.gov through Feb. 4.

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“We at DMV know how important it is to have qualified truck and bus drivers on the road, and we are committed to doing what we can to address the need,” said Mark J.F. Schroeder, DMV commissioner. “We look forward to gathering public input at this hearing and then acting to enable qualified third parties to offer CDL road tests to give New Yorkers greater opportunity to take the test and to get good jobs driving these essential vehicles.”

As schools prepared to reopen last year, Hochul took action to make it easier for bus drivers to obtain CDLs. Then, she expanded those efforts to include truck drivers, particularly given supply chain issues.

Last year, the New York DMV removed a 14-day waiting time between a CDL permit test and road test to expedite the process. It also increased capacity to administer both written and road tests by cooperating with county-operated DMV offices and partnering with the State University of New York, the state Thruway Authority, the New York Racing Association and the Office of General Services to use their large lots for the road tests.