During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued several waivers to allow continued testing and skill evaluation of applicants for commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) despite the closure of some state driver licensing offices and the temporary absence of state employees. Now, at the urging of the trucking industry, FMCSA has evaluated which of those waiver measures improved the efficiency and flexibility of the CDL process and has publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to codify them into federal regulations.

The NPRM proposes to adjust four areas of CDL regulations that directly affect trucking.

Expand a CDL applicant’s ability to take a CDL skills test outside their home state.  Current FMCSA regulations say that an applicant must have obtained training in a state other than their home state to take the CDL skills test there. In 2022, FMCSA implemented the entry-level driver training (ELDT) regulations, ensuring that all CDL applicants, including those from out of state, have completed minimum training standards. With this change, CDL applicants will be able to schedule training and testing in a state with a shorter wait time or one that meets the applicant’s work location.

Allow a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) holder who has passed the CDL skills test to operate a commercial motor vehicle for any purpose, with accompaniment by a qualified CDL holder.  Current regulations allow a CLP holder to operate a commercial vehicle (CMV) for the purpose of behind-the-wheel training with a CDL holder in the passenger seat. FMCSA believes that ELDT, combined with a passed skills test, sufficiently confirms a CLP holder’s ability to safely operate a CMV. The CLP holder must have state documentation in the cab of the passed skills test. The CDL holder will still need to be present in the truck – but could be in the sleeper berth and not in the passenger seat. This change would offer more work flexibility to CLP holders while they await the arrival of their CDL.

Allow states to use third-party knowledge examiners meeting the same standards as state employees.  During the pandemic many states brought in third parties under an FMCSA waiver to meet the CDL testing workload while state employees were unavailable. This proposal would allow states to continue to use third-party knowledge examiners who have undergone the same training, certification, and record checking requirements that apply to state-employed examiners and the state monitoring requirements already in use for third-party skills testers. The third-party knowledge examiners, however, would only be allowed to administer the knowledge test electronically.

Expand applicant’s ability to take the CDL skills test.  Current regulations require an applicant to wait at least 14 days to take the CDL skills test after the initial issuance of the CLP, with the intent that behind-the-wheel training could take place during that time. Now that ELDT requirements include performance-based behind-the-wheel training, the proposal says that set waiting period is not necessary. In fact, ELDT regulations allow applicants to schedule the skills test before ELDT completion. With adoption of the this proposal, CLP holders will be able to set a skills test date soon after completion of their ELDT requirements.

The NPRM is open for public comment until April 2, 2024.

The PrePass blog and podcasts are published as a public service of PrePass®, the most reliable and technologically advanced weigh station bypass and integrated electronic trucking toll payment platform in North America. PrePass also includes INFORM™ Safety and INFORM™ Tolling software for improving truck safety scores and lowering toll costs.