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February 2015

Time is running out to adopt new CDL Testing and CLP Standards

 

There’s been a big push by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to make sure states are becoming compliant with the federal CDL program. A number of new regulations have already been put into effect over the last couple of years, and now states are encouraged to ‘Go Green in 2015.’ In other words, they should be in compliance with all of FMCSA’s CDL requirements by Sept. 30, 2015, or they risk the withholding of a small percentage of their Highway Fund dollars by the USDOT.

In mid-2015, particularly important parts of the CDL program that states must start enforcing are the new requirements listed in the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Testing and Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP) Standards Final Rule. “It’s really affected the entire CDL program in ways that are pretty intense,” says Kevin Lewis, director of driver programs at AAMVA, of FMCSA’s final rule.

The rule amends the CDL knowledge and skills testing standards and establishes new minimum federal standards for states to issue a CLP. Prior to the final CLP rule, there had never been a federal requirement for jurisdictions to issue a learner’s permit to individuals learning how to drive a truck. Beginning July 8, 2015, FMCSA will require that all CDL applicants must hold a CLP for 14 days before they are eligible to take the skills test.

The new CDL program regulations also state that a CLP can be valid for up to 180 days, and that a jurisdiction may extend the permit’s issuance for up to an additional 180 days only once without requiring the permit holder to retake the knowledge test. “Hopefully this will be enough of a hindrance to prevent drivers from participating in tandem driving while holding permits for eight, 10 or 12 years without ever obtaining a license,” Lewis says.

In terms of the testing standards, both knowledge test and skills test examiners will need to undergo testing themselves in order to become examiners for the CDL test. Criminal background checks will be required of examiners, and any fraudulent activity or a felony conviction would disqualify an individual from being a CDL examiner. Additionally, CDL training school instructors will not be allowed to test the specific individuals that they train.

States must begin enforcing all provisions of the CDL Testing and CLP Standards final rule by July 8, 2015.

Lewis notes that states will face a cost to change or implement these new regulations, and that AAMVA and FMCSA want to work with the jurisdictions to help them come into compliance. “FMCSA holds monthly phone calls to talk about this topic, and there are CDL program improvement grants available to help the jurisdictions financially,” he says.