Minnesota wants to streamline its commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills testing process, and federal regulators are reconsidering the state’s initial exemption request, which was denied in 2017.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (MDPS) in 2016 asked that it be allowed to combine the vehicle control skills and on-road driving parts of the CDL skills test. It also asked to be exempted from using the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) 2005 Test Model Score Sheet. In addition, the state asked that it be allowed to administer as much of the CDL test as possible during the scheduled appointment time “even if the vehicle inspection is not successfully passed by the applicant.”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) denied Minnesota’s streamlining request in 2017, citing the following reasons:
- FMCSA opposed combining the skills test. Under the proposed exemption, an individual could pass Minnesota’s combined test even though he or she has exceeded the maximum point deduction allowed when the two portions (basic controls or on-road) of the skills test are given separately.
- FMCSA opposed allowing a state to amend the AAMVA test model score sheet, which has been tested and validated for use by all states in testing prospective CMV drivers. When a CDL driver moves to a new state and seeks to transfer his or her CDL to that state, universal use of the score sheet assures the new state that the driver met a baseline standard for safety when his or her CDL was first issued.
- FMCSA opposed allowing CDL applicants to operate CMVs at highway speeds when they have not demonstrated the proper handling of the vehicle at lower speeds during the basic controls test.
Minnesota challenged FMCSA’s ruling in 2018, claiming that federal regulations allow for a comparable test model rather than require strict adherence to the 2005 AAMVA model. Moreover, complying with the 2005 AAMVA model would actually reduce CDL testing process standards in Minnesota, the state claimed, which would result in less competent drivers receiving CDLs.
For example, “Minnesota is more stringent when evaluating the basic control skills,” MDPS Commissioner Ramona Dohman asserted in a letter challenging the FMCSA’s initial ruling. “This area on Minnesota’s scoresheet represents up to 18-point deductions, but a driver loses point deductions quicker than on the AAMVA model because pull ups and encroachments are scored off at a greater point value.”
Regarding FMCSA’s concern about the potential for CDL applicants operating at highway speeds before showing proper vehicle handling at lower speeds, the state asserted that the order in which parts of the CDL test are conducted does not result in unsafe conditions.
“Exam stations are located in low traffic speed residential and downtown areas across the state,” Dohman explained. “Once the vehicle inspection is completed, drivers travel at low speeds per posted traffic signs to the location where backing exercises are conducted. In addition, the basic controls segment consists of backing maneuvers with potential pull ups and is performed at very low speed. Consequently, drivers do not proceed to highway speeds prior to completing the basic control skills.”
FMCSA received 12 comments on Minnesota’s original exemption request, with those opposed generally feeling that granting the exemption “would compromise the standardization of testing among the various States,” the agency stated.
Comments on Minnesota’s followup petition for relief are due 30 days after FMCSA’s notice is published in the Federal Register, scheduled for Monday.
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