In a move designed to address the freight capacity crunch and driver shortage, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is loosening restrictions on the licensing process for aspiring truck and bus drivers.
The DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) said today that the new rule will allow states to permit a third-party skills test examiner to administer the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) skills test to applicants to whom the examiner has also provided skills training.
Federal rules had previously prohibited a third-party CDL skills instructor who is also authorized by the state to administer the CDL skills test from performing both the instruction and the qualifying testing for the same CDL applicant. The final rule announced today eliminates that restriction and permits states, at their discretion, to allow qualified third-party skills trainers to also conduct the skills testing for the same individual.
According to FMCSA, the new rule is designed to alleviate testing delays and eliminate “needless inconvenience and expense” to CDL applicants, without compromising safety. The rule change is effective 60 days from its publication in the Federal Register.
The timing of that change comes just 34 days before the incoming Biden Administration is set to nominate Pete Buttigieg as the new transportation secretary, replacing Elaine Chao. It marks the latest in a series of efforts to remove regulations from the transportation sector, such as loosening restriction on truck drivers’ hours of service (HoS) caps and on the minimum size of train crews.
FMCSA has been specifically focused on reducing regulatory barriers for CDL applicants. In March 2019, the agency authored a final rule streamlining the process and reducing costs to upgrade from a Class B to Class A CDL— a deregulatory action that it says will save eligible driver trainees and motor carriers $18 million annually.
“Under Secretary Chao’s leadership, the Trump Administration has continued to examine ways to provide common-sense regulatory reform and help individuals seeking to enter the commercial driver industry,” FMCSA Deputy Administrator Wiley Deck said in a release. “This new rule will provide states more flexibility during the ongoing public health emergency to test CDL applicants and allow more drivers to safely enter the industry.”