In a new report to Congress, FMCSA identified safety concerns with its COVID-era waiver that allowed certain third-party CDL skills test examiners to also conduct CDL knowledge tests.
The Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 required FMCSA consider making the waiver permanent, or submit a report determining why it won’t make the waiver permanent. The waiver allowed some state-authorized third-party skills test examiners to administer the CDL knowledge test without completing a CDL knowledge test training course. Those examiners had to have maintained a valid CDL test examiner certification and have had previously completed a CDL skills test examiner training course that satisfied regulatory requirements.
At the time the waiver was in place, FMCSA had official regulatory guidance in place that stated that third parties could not administer the CDL knowledge test unless a state employee was present. The agency amended that guidance on Feb. 3, 2022, to clarify “that its current statutory authorities and regulations do not prohibit third party testers from administering the CDL knowledge tests.”
FMCSA said it felt the waiver provided an equivalent level of safety as not having the waiver, given the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 emergency. Making it permanent, however, “is another matter entirely and calls for consideration of a comprehensive regulatory framework applicable to the states’ discretionary use of third-party knowledge examiners, subject to public notice and comment.”
The agency said its primary safety concern is that, without additional safeguards, there is a lack of regulatory requirements for states to audit and monitor the operations of third-party knowledge examiners to make sure the tests are being administered properly. FMCSA said the absence of additional safeguards would undermine the “integrity of the CDL knowledge testing program, and the safety benefit derived from CDL knowledge testing.”
FMCSA is currently working to develop a proposed rulemaking that will offer minimum regulatory standards for states opting to allow third party knowledge testing, which should address the agency’s safety concerns.