Earlier this month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration missed a key opportunity to facilitate driver credentialing in the wake of the implementation of its new Entry-level Driver Training Rules. Specifically, FMCSA has withdrawn two proposed rules which sought to make it easier for drivers being trained under the new rules to be tested on their knowledge and skills.
The most significant rule would have allowed drivers attending truck driver training schools outside their state of domicile to take the knowledge test in their state of training, rather than their state of domicile and it would have required the state of domicile to accept the exam results. The challenge has been that drivers who travel to attend centralized training schools must travel back to their state of domicile to pass the knowledge exam and obtain their CLP, then return to the training school to complete the skills training portion of ELDT. This inefficiency has frustrated drivers and driven up training costs for carriers and students, and irritated motor carriers who are finding drivers less willing to undergo unnecessary travel.
States who objected to the proposal cited concerns of fraud, conflict of interest or examiner bias as their primary reasons, ignoring the fact that States are required to base knowledge exams on a pool of standardized questions developed by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators.
The second withdrawn rule would have allowed third-party skills test examiners to provide skills tests to applicants to whom they have provided skills training. Those supporting the rule indicated that state agencies already have tools in place to detect fraud, the current method causes needless inconvenience and added cost for 3rd party testers, applicants, and the transportation industry and causes CDL testing delays which exacerbate the driver shortage. Like the first proposed rule, many commenters opposed to this change (mostly state licensing agencies), cited concerns about fraud, conflict of interest, and examiner bias, which they believe would ultimately impact the integrity of the rule and safety.
While STC shares some of the concerns expressed by commenters to these proposed rules, the last few years have shown us that the myriad of administrative processes in place regarding driver training, testing, and licensing are in dire need of revamping. While FMCSA and the states have made some strides in this regard, the plethora of administrative barriers to bringing more interested and qualified drivers into the fold will hamper industry efforts to address the shortage and meet demand going forward. The government can’t do it all; it needs to look for innovative solutions that incorporate the proper safeguards. Not addressing these issues only adds to the cost and complexity of an already burdened industry.