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March 2018

The International Driver Examiner Certification Board and Test Maintenance Subcommittee ensure consistency, accuracy and integrity for driver examiners in all jurisdictions across North America

When it comes to public safety on roadways, driver examiners are tasked with a very important mission: ensure all new drivers are safe drivers.

Consequently, driver examiner training has a large impact on public safety. Examiners play a crucial role in reducing the frequency and severity of traffic collisions because they are the ones tasked with making sure drivers are qualified to safely operate a motor vehicle in most traffic situations. They have the responsibility of disqualifying those drivers who have not met the basic requirements and might pose a threat to public safety. Additionally, examiners might work with law enforcement, driver education teachers and others to aid in reducing motor vehicle crashes and fatalities. Therefore, it is important that examiners undergo regular training to stay up-to-date on the latest best practices and advancements in vehicle technology.

A Changing World

Drivers today are increasingly operating vehicles that are drastically different from those of recent decades. Vehicles equipped with advanced safety technologies are currently being produced and sold in the U.S. and Canada. In turn, driver testing—including information in the driver’s manual—needs to keep pace with advances in vehicle technology to ensure qualified drivers receive a driver’s license.

To guarantee drivers on our roads are as safe as possible, examiners need to keep pace with the rapid advances in vehicle technology because they may encounter these new technologies when testing drivers. That’s where the AAMVA International Driver Examiner Certification (IDEC) program, a valuable tool to assist jurisdictions with examiner training and certification, comes in. AAMVA members, through IDEC, the Test Maintenance Subcommittee (TMS) and the Autonomous Vehicles Working Group, are collaborating to identify enhancements for driver testing and examiner training related to enhanced vehicle technologies. 

IDEC: A Brief History

IDEC was formed in 1982 as a joint collaboration among AAMVA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to create training and certification materials used by driver examination personnel across the U.S. and Canada.

AAMVA's Test Maintenance Subcommittee and IDEC Executive Board
AAMVA’s Test Maintenance Subcommittee and the International Driver Examiner Certification Executive Board went on an educational tour of a motor coach facility on Sept. 20, 2017, to learn more about the emerging and advanced technologies that are affecting how examiners and drivers are testing. The groups are looking at new ways to help state driver’s licensing agencies tackle existing and upcoming challenges.

Since then, IDEC has developed lesson plans, instructors’ guides, student workbooks, quizzes and end-of-course knowledge tests as part of the examiner training portfolio available for use by jurisdictions. 

Meeting licensing standards requires all people who operate motor vehicles to pass certain knowledge and skills tests. The examiner plays a key role in ensuring this testing process is carried out correctly and consistently. Jurisdictions should use licensing tests that are valid and reliable for their intended purpose, such as the AAMVA Motorcycle Operator Manual (MOM) and the motorcycle knowledge test item pool, the Non-Commercial Model Driver Testing System (NMDTS) and the 2005 Commercial Driver License (CDL) Testing System (July 2017 version). 

The newest program released by IDEC is the Certified Commercial Examiner (CCE) training program. It includes an online-based CDL Examiner training program that was designed to be used via a learning management system (LMS) or on a laptop or desktop computer. 

“Because it’s a standardized curriculum, it provides examiners, as well as jurisdictions, the same level of knowledge,” says Denise Hanchulak, the IDEC program director at AAMVA. “It offers jurisdictions a way to stay informed and keep their examiners educated without doing all of the work themselves.”

The materials also cater to the fact that many program areas don’t have ample funds for training. “It can be a challenge for a jurisdiction to develop its own curriculum, keep it up-to-date and follow a national standard,” Hanchulak says. “So this is an easy and cost-effective way for them to keep their examiners educated and informed.” 

IDEC’s primary goal is creating high-quality training that is consistent across jurisdictions. To become IDEC-certified, examiners in participating jurisdictions must complete a minimum of 40 hours of initial training and undergo refresher training at least once every four years.

IDEC and TMS: Working Together 

The IDEC program would not be what it is today without the TMS. AAMVA established the TMS in 1992 to maintain the CDL model test system. Since that time, TMS has also developed the NMDTS and the MOM.

“AAMVA has committed the time and resources to put the IDEC Board together. Along with the Test Maintenance Subcommittee, we assist jurisdictions in training their examiners with current standard practices,” says Nancy Prescott, vice chair of the IDEC Board and motor vehicle branch operations manager for the State of Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles.

TMS ensures that the driver manuals, examiner manuals, knowledge tests and skills tests associated with commercial and noncommercial license testing meet federal and statutory requirements, says Larry Boivin, chair of TMS and public service manager and chief driver license examiner for the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles. “I think IDEC has done a great job in working together with TMS to make sure that we’re meeting those objectives,” he says. 

In addition, TMS tracks industry trends and new vehicle technologies, and communicates with all of the jurisdictions to see which areas they might need to strengthen and which ones might be becoming obsolete, says Jimmy Davison, a member of the TMS Board and program manager for the South Carolina Department of Transportation. “We’re constantly evaluating the tests to make sure they’re up-to-date,” he says. “TMS works very closely with IDEC. They take the standards and exams that we implement and make sure that states are bringing integrity into the training and testing part of the exams.”

A Constantly Evolving Process

IDEC and TMS meet yearly to discuss what updates need to be made to the curricula. But Hanchulak emphasizes that if a pressing change needs to be made, they will make it as soon as possible. Because the training materials are broken into modules, changes can be made to portions of the materials without affecting the entire curriculum. 

For example, the IDEC program previously required jurisdictions to become certified and accredited in the noncommercial/passenger vehicle testing area first. Linda Dunstall, chair of the IDEC Board and director at the Ontario, Ministry of Transportation, Road User Safety Division, Modernization Branch, says it was recognized that changes to the standards were needed to allow jurisdictions to be accredited and certify examiners in any line of business preferred, whether that’s passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles or motorcycles. 

“We started to think about the [IDEC] certification from the perspective of: What are the learning outcomes an examiner needs to know, and what are the performance indicators associated with that?” Dunstall says. “We started to rewrite the curriculum to match a more standardized, structured approach to curriculum development.”

IDEC and TMS have also consulted various jurisdictions to see what testing and testing areas were outdated or simply didn’t work for them, and then reworked the curriculum so nothing was jurisdiction-specific. “It allows for more participation in the program from the jurisdictions,” Dunstall says.

One other big change to occur recently, Dunstall says, has been expanding the third-party tester program and standardizing the training for third-party testers. 

Keeping Up with New Technology 

In 2018, NHTSA will mandate that all states and car companies have backup cameras in their vehicles. IDEC and TMS are committed to providing examiners with the tools they need to be ready for this rule change. 

“New technologies are something the two groups are going to be addressing in the coming months,” Hanchulak says. “We want to be able to provide jurisdictions with best practices or guidelines on how to test applicants when they come across these automated technologies.” 

Dunstall agrees. “We should be on the forefront of change,” she says. “This group needs to stay abreast of technology. We need to make sure jurisdictions and examiners have the information they need in order for them to test in new vehicles, such as the braking systems in motor coaches.”

Boivin feels confident AAMVA can keep up with these changes so long as IDEC and TMS continue working together. “With technology changes happening so rapidly and the autonomous vehicle discussion ramping up greatly, that’s going to be a whole other area that both groups are going to need to have synergy on.”