Federal regulators issued a final rule Thursday to make it easier to obtain a commercial driver’s license despite concerns that the change could open the door to CDL training fraud.
The rule, based on a proposal issued in June 2019, was initiated after complaints that the current standards for knowledge and skills testing were too restrictive. The final rule eliminates a requirement prohibiting a third-party CDL skills instructor — who is authorized to administer the CDL skills test — from performing both the instruction and the qualifying testing for the same CDL applicant.
Individual states — at their discretion — can now allow qualified third-party skills trainers to also conduct the skills testing for the same person.
“During the COVID-19 public health emergency, truckers have been American heroes — and the department is committed to helping our economy by reducing unnecessary barriers for those interested in obtaining jobs in the trucking industry,” commented U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in announcing the rule.
“Under Secretary Chao’s leadership, the Trump administration has continued to examine ways to provide common-sense regulatory reform and help individuals seeking to enter the commercial driver industry,” said Wiley Deck, deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. “This new rule will provide states more flexibility during the ongoing public health emergency to test CDL applicants and allow more drivers to safely enter the industry.”
FMCSA acknowledged in the final rule that most of the comments it received from individuals opposed the plan, citing concerns about fraud, conflict of interest or examiner bias — concerns that were also raised by those supporting the change.
The Truckload Carriers Association, for example, which generally supported the rule change, cautioned that “enforcement will be necessary to eliminate the possibility for fraud by bad actors who simply want to profit monetarily from the new regulatory flexibility.”
But TCA also cited data in support of the change, which showed that drivers in 2016 seeking initial CDL skills tests and retests experienced over 6.4 million days of delays. That resulted in 258,744 driver and other jobs being placed on hold and $1.5 billion in forgone wages, according to the data cited by TCA.
FMCSA responded to those opposing lifting the restrictions by stating that the agency “continues to believe that lifting the restriction … will not diminish highway safety. Extensive requirements and resources are currently in place to help FMCSA and the states maintain the integrity of the process and identify irregularities in skills testing.”
The final rule goes into effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
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