The Virginia Legislature passed a law that will allow the state’s private commercial driver training schools and community colleges to hire third-party commercial driver license testers to help reduce skills-testing delays.
The bill, if signed by Gov. Ralph Northam, is expected to significantly mitigate wait times for all CDL skills tests and retests, a nationwide problem that truckers say has exacerbated the driver shortage and deprived them of income while they waited to be tested. The bill will become effective Oct. 1.
In 2016 — the latest numbers available — Virginia did not report delays for CDL skills tests. However, the state does have an average seven-day wait for a driver retest. About 42% of the 12,000 estimated drivers tested in Virginia that year flunked their initial test and had to retake it.
The number of tests being administered in Virginia has been growing rapidly over the years, Commercial Vehicle Training Association President Don Lefeve said. “So, obviously, it necessitated a change,” he said.
A student and instructor practicing at a commercial driving school. (Photo by John Sommers II)
Virginia has only nine CDL testing locations, Lefeve said.
It would be a conflict of interest violation of federal regulations for third-party testers hired by schools to train the students they test, Lefeve said. All third-party testers must undergo the same training as state-employed testers, he said.
“Commercial truck drivers play a vital role in moving the U.S. economy forward, and this law will help to ensure that Virginia drivers are not burdened by long testing delays preventing them from entering the workforce,” Lefeve said in a statement. “As demonstrated by a recent study commissioned by CVTA, commercial skills-testing delays are responsible for 6.4 million days of delays for new commercial drivers and more than $1.5 billion in lost wages and tax revenue throughout the United States.
“This new law builds on common-sense solutions the Department of Motor Vehicles and other stakeholders have proposed to solve problems hindering our workforce.”
Lefeve added, “We look forward to working with partners across the industry to ensure this law is enacted in a way that benefits commercial drivers and the Virginia economy while not compromising our No. 1 priority: safety.”
A recent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration survey concluded that New Jersey had the longest wait for drivers to take their skills tests at 47 days.
Drivers in Alaska had to wait 25 days, and in California it was 23. The waits in Massachusetts were 16 days, 14 days in Texas, 13 days in Oregon and 11 days in Maryland, according to the survey. However, most of the states surveyed did not report wait times.
CVTA said that a day delay in skills testing is a day delayed in working.
“If drivers could have earned income and spent on local businesses,” CVTA said, “they would have created other jobs in their local economies.”