As the truck driver shortage continues on, industry regulators have released new regulation flexibility that will lessen restrictions surrounding commercial driver license knowledge test examiners.
These new guidelines, filed recently by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, will aim to help companies deploy new truck drivers more quickly by allowing third-party test proctors to conduct the CDL test’s knowledge portion. This allowance will apply to all endorsements and classes and will no longer require the presence of a state examiner.
These new restriction relaxations come in contrast to 2019’s re-issued guidelines, in which FMCSA mandated that only a CDL test’s skills portion was included in the third-party testing provision.
“FMCSA has reconsidered this guidance and concludes that nothing in the agency’s current authorities [prohibit] states from permitting third-party testers to administer CDL knowledge tests” for any endorsement or class within license testing, the agency explained in its announcement.
Now, third-party proctors can indeed conduct the skills and/or knowledge portion of a CDL test, should a state agency allow.
State driver licensing agencies “may accept the results of knowledge tests administered by third party testers in accordance with existing knowledge test standards and requirements,” the agency continued.
This provisional update comes the same day that Congress also introduced restriction-relaxing legislation–the Licensing Individual Commercial Exam-takers Now Safely and Efficiently (License) Act will make an FMCSA waiver permanent that will allow third-party CDL skills test examiners to also administer CDL knowledge tests, as long as they were previously authorized by the state to do so. They also will forego any requirement of having completed a CDL knowledge test training course. This waiver, made permanent through both the House and the Senate, was issued several times over the last two years as the industry scrambled to find new, qualified truck drivers throughout the pandemic-induced driver shortage exacerbation.
Additionally, another waiver was made permanent through the License Act, which will allow a state to proctor a driving skills test for any commercial driver license applicant from any state, no matter where the new driver completed his or her CDL driver training courses. Through this waiver, any commercial learner’s permit holder will also be allowed to operate a commercial motor vehicle alongside a supervising CDL holder present in the sleeper berth, as long as the permit holder has already passed the CDL driving skills test. Previously, the supervising veteran trucker had to be present in the main cab.
“From the onset of the pandemic, these waivers have reduced administrative burdens for Americans working towards obtaining their CDLs and pursuing careers in trucking,” said American Trucking Associations’ VP of safety policy, Dan Horvath.
For safety advocates, of course, this update is concerning. Relaxed methods of licensing new truck drivers who will immediately operate commercial motor vehicles on America’s roadways will lead to drivers sharing the road with even more young truckers without adequate experience or safety behavior, and thus, more accidents will likely occur.
Still, co-director of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, P. Sean Garney, agreed with Horvath, noting that training schools have been urging FMCSA to relax third-party testing regulations for many years in order for driver credentialing processes to become much easier and quicker.
“I think this will be particularly helpful in light of the entry-level driver training rules that are set to be implemented,” he said. “In states that decide to allow this, drivers may be able to complete the entire CDL process at the truck driving school. They’ll be able to take the required theory training and then sit for the knowledge test quickly after. This will get them to range and road training more quickly and get [them] trucking sooner. The rules require CDL knowledge tests be developed using a standard bank of questions, so I see little risk in allowing a third party to proctor the exam.”