The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has dropped two proposed rule changes regarding CDL licensing processes. The proposed changes were meant to streamline the CDL process, but public concern and opposition to these measures persuaded the agency to reconsider.
Both of the proposed rule changes centered around third-party CDL testing and were intended to speed up the CDL process. In the first proposal, the FMCSA was considering allowing third-party test examiners to also administer the CDL skills test to applicants. The second proposal would have allowed applicants to take the CDL general and specialized knowledge tests in a state other than the applicant’s state of domicile. Both of these proposals made up the backbone of the Licensing Individual Commercial Exam-takers Now Safely and Efficiently Act, or LICENSE Act, which we reported about in an earlier blog post.
At their heart, these proposals were meant to address the ongoing trucker shortage in the country. The faster states can safely test and grant CDLs, the faster new drivers can get on the road and help with freight backlogs, or so the argument went. However, after a period of public comment that saw a majority of commenters opposed to the proposals, the FMCSA changed their mind.
In a recent Transport Topics article, the FMCSA stated that they received 95 comments from trainers, testers, and drivers, as well as from trade organizations and state licensing agencies. “Most commenters opposed the Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), citing concerns about fraud, conflict of interest, or examiner bias,” the FMCSA said. “These commenters argued that allowing the same individual to train and test the applicant could undermine the integrity of the skills testing process, thereby negatively impacting safety.”
Some commenters opposed to the new rules cited the potential for a lack of impartiality in testing. If the same person who has trained a CDL candidate administers the skills test, the potential for bias is too high, according to some comments. Other comments addressed concerns about how states would communicate results in instances when a CDL candidate tests outside of their state of residence. For more detail, please see the Transport Topic article.
So for now, these measures to speed up the CDL process are off the table. The FMCSA’s efforts to meet the needs of the trucking industry are admirable, but even more important is the fact that safety concerns are being addressed. Without a doubt, the trucking industry needs more drivers, but as long as questions remain as to how to meet that need safely, the best course of action is to err on the side of caution.