A variety of actions are in the works to speed up the commercial driver licensing process by streamlining credentialing steps for new truckers.
Regulators have been updating guidelines as two bills are introduced in Congress; the Licensing Individual Commercial Exam-takers Efficiently (LICENSE) Act, for example, will allow state driver licensing agencies to utilize third-party test administrators to conduct both a CDL skills test and knowledge test. This comes as the act would make two Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration-issued waivers permanent.
Through this legislation, states would be able to conduct driver skills tests for any applicant, regardless of what state the driver is from or where the driver underwent training. Additionally, under the act, commercial learner’s permit holders who have already passed their CDL skills test but haven’t obtained credentials would be able to drive with a veteran trucker in the truck.
“With a shortage of roughly 80,000 drivers, we should be making the process of becoming a professional truck driver as user-friendly as possible,” said Chris Spear, President of American Trucking Associations. “By making common-sense changes to the CDL testing process and eliminating redundant background checks, we can cut red tape so these hard-working men and women can get on the road navigating our nation’s highways instead of navigating its bureaucracies.”
The act was first introduced into the House by Representatives Troy Balderson of Ohio, Henry Cuellar of Texas, Josh Harder of California, and Darin LaHood of Illinois. In the Senate, the act was introduced by Senators Mark Kelly of Arizona and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming.
The LICENSE Act also aims to bring boosted support to regulatory FMCSA guidance revisions that will bring to light the regulations and guidelines that won’t hinder any third-party testing administrators from conducting CDL learner permit knowledge tests, as well.
The second bill introduced in Congress is the Transportation Security Administration Security Threat Assessment Application Modernization Act, which calls on TSA to make the application and renewal processes easier for those working toward multiple credentials at a time, as well as to lower overall fees for applicants. This act was introduced in the House by representatives John Katko of New York and Adam Smith of Washington.
The bills are a no-brainer to Commercial Vehicle Training Association president Bailey Wood, who noted that permitting third-party administrators to conduct knowledge tests would ultimately “allow states to address the driver testing backlog” and help ease the ongoing driver shortage. Although state licensing agencies can use third-party administrators for skills tests, only a couple of states currently allow for the usage of knowledge test results conducted by a third-party tester.
“According to my research and discussions with members, only Texas and Virginia permit third-party knowledge testing,” explained Wood. “Almost all states in some shape or form use third-party testing for skills tests, but skills testing is a completely different beast.”
Making the testing process as streamlined as possible should be everyone’s priority, Wood noted.
“We’re going to be encouraging states to adopt third-party knowledge test administration,” he said. “The new guidance allows one-stop shopping for students, letting them get knowledge and skills testing at the same location. Anything that expands the number of testing opportunities is a good thing.”
FMCSA has claimed, up until 2019, that third-party testing should only occur within the skills section of a CDL test, “unless an employee of the state who is authorized to supervise knowledge testing is present during the testing.” Now, FMCSA has announced in a Federal Register post that it has “reconsidered its earlier guidance” and come to the decision that none of its present guidelines block states from allowing third-party CDL knowledge tests.
This is due to the agency’s understanding that third-party testing may still be overseen by federal and state regulators to check for federal requirement compliance, and that test administrators may also need to undergo background checks, as third-party testing would allow any public and private entity to conduct a skills test on the respective state’s behalf.