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California DMV nearly doubles capacity for commercial driving tests

Access focused on SoCal to help with container crunch in ports

California is trying to get more truckers on the road serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to help speed cargo transfers. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

The California Division of Motor Vehicles said Tuesday it is expanding capacity to administer commercial driving tests by increasing weekend hours and shifting examiners from other parts of the state to Southern California, where more truckers are needed to pull containers from backlogged ports. 

The DMV will now offer Saturday commercial driving test appointments at three additional offices – Fullerton, Montebello and Winnetka – bringing the total number of Saturday test sites to 15. The department began offering an extra testing day at select locations earlier this year and is also training more staff to administer the tests and redirecting examiners to the areas of greatest demand to significantly expand capacity.

“There is a real need to increase the number of safe truck drivers in California to transport goods. Our goal is to give everyone who needs to take a test for a commercial driver’s license the opportunity to be tested within 30 days if they meet the requirements,” said DMV Director Steve Gordon. “Depending on the location, prospective commercial drivers can get an appointment for a test within a week.”

The DMV currently administers approximately 5,000 commercial driving tests each month statewide. Once it fully implements the strategic staffing changes, combined with expanded Saturday testing, the DMV expects to add another 4,700 appointments a month. The agency said its main focus for staffing is in Southern California because the highest demand for tests is in the greater Los Angeles area. It will monitor appointment availability and adjust if it starts to lag in other regions.

The Harbor Trucking Association, which represents motor carriers that shuttle containers between the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, says there isn’t a shortage of drayage drivers. The problem, it argues, is marine terminals with restrictive rules about returning empty containers to swap for loaded ones, which discourages truckers from making trips.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttegieg said last month that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is working with state motor vehicle divisions to cut red tape and speed up the issuing of CDLs to get more qualified drivers on the road.

The DMV action follows the formation of a strategic partnership between California and the U.S. Department of Transportation to coordinate planning for freight-related infrastructure projects and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order for agencies to find overflow container storage yards and identify freight routes that could be exempted from the gross vehicle weight limit.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the DMV has tried to keep drivers on the road by making it possible to conduct business without coming into an office. The DMV has offered commercial driver’s license extensions and began offering more commercial driving services online, including medical certificate updates, CDL renewals and motor carrier permit renewals. The DMV also no longer requires drivers with an out-of-state commercial license to take a knowledge or skills test when transferring to a California commercial license with the same class and endorsements. 

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


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One Comment

  1. Nono

    Please make sure you explain that Out of State CDL drivers wishing to obtain the equivalent license in CA must take the written Hazmat test if it already on their Out of State license.

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Eric Kulisch

Eric is the Supply Chain and Air Cargo Editor at FreightWaves. An award-winning business journalist with extensive experience covering the logistics sector, Eric spent nearly two years as the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Automotive News, where he focused on regulatory and policy issues surrounding autonomous vehicles, mobility, fuel economy and safety. He has won two regional Gold Medals from the American Society of Business Publication Editors for government coverage and news analysis, and was voted best for feature writing and commentary in the Trade/Newsletter category by the D.C. Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As associate editor at American Shipper Magazine for more than a decade, he wrote about trade, freight transportation and supply chains. Eric is based in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached for comments and tips at [email protected]