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Driver issuesNewsRegulation

Regulators to ease rules for CDL knowledge testing

A month after proposing to lift barriers to skills testing, federal regulators want to continue to lighten the load for would-be truck drivers by making it easier to take knowledge tests on the path to receiving a commercial drivers’ license (CDL).

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will soon propose allowing CDL applicants to take general and specialized knowledge tests in a state other than the applicant’s state of residence.

Current regulations require that states issue CDLs only to those operating, or planning to operate, a commercial truck who reside in that state. Congress enacted this so-called “domicile requirement,” also referred to as the “one driver/one license/one record” principle, to prevent drivers from masking traffic violations or other offenses in one state by applying for and receiving a new CDL in another state.

While the proposed rule would not be a requirement, those states that do elect to offer knowledge tests to out-of-state drivers would transmit the results to the state where the applicant actually lives, and the applicant’s state of residence would be required to accept the results.

“Reducing burdens and expenses on CDL applicants has the potential to increase the number of available drivers,” said FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez in announcing the proposal today (July 24). “With the American economy continuing to grow at a record pace, the need for more commercial drivers is critical. This proposal offers common-sense regulatory changes that will help CDL applicants, without compromising safety.”

According to the proposal, travel time and associated costs for applicants would be reduced for those who choose to receive certain driver training outside the state in which they live but would otherwise have to return to their domicile state for their knowledge testing and the issuance of their commercial learner’s permit (CLP) or CDL.

“To the extent that reducing travel costs associated with out-of-state training increases the number of applicants or applicant access to high-quality training programs, there could be positive impacts on driver safety,” the agency stated, acknowledging it has no data to verify that.

FMCSA said it anticipates the proposal would require states to modify their current CLP and CDL upgrade issuance processes to some extent. For example, the state of domicile would need to establish a process to deliver the physical CLP or CDL to the driver applicant in another state. “It would be up to the state of domicile to determine method(s) of delivery that would allow the applicant to receive the CLP or upgraded CDL,” the agency stated.

The agency said all required knowledge testing is included in the proposal to avoid situations where a driver applicant may take the general knowledge test out of state but have to return to their residential state to take a specialized knowledge test for one or more endorsements.

The recent government proposals attempting to make it easier to obtain a CDL follow from a rule finalized last year allowing states discretion to waive the CLP knowledge skills tests for members of the military.

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John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.

24 Comments

  1. I’m glad you mentioned that soon commercial driver license applicants will need to take a general knowledge test to earn their license. I’ve been wanting to get into freight driving to help pay the bills for the next few years. Maybe a knowledge test is perfect to help make sure everyone knows what they’re doing.

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