States Need More Oversight of CDL Testing Companies

April 1st, 2016 by Attorney Julie Butcher

To legally drive a commercial truck in Kentucky and across the country, a person needs a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which requires successful passage of a written test and a skills test. You might think these tests would be administered by the state, but that’s not necessarily the case. In most states (39 of 50, including Kentucky), both the state and private companies offer the tests. The federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently wrote a report stating that private testing companies are not under enough scrutiny, risking the possibility that dangerous, unqualified truck drivers may be on the roads.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) is the agency whose job it is to regulate commercial drivers, including making sure they have the required knowledge and skills to safely drive commercial vehicles. The GAO, an independent Congressional agency, investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.

The FMCSA and the states have competing priorities when ensuring that CDL programs, tests and companies that give tests are legitimate. Although there is a risk of fraud when these tests are administered by disreputable testers, states want to minimize delays by allowing a third party to give some of the tests. According to the GAO report, there are weaknesses in FMCSA’s oversight of CDL skills testing which prevents the agency from being reasonably sure that all CDL programs comply with applicable federal regulations.

Due to a worsening shortage of truck drivers, the GAO states, there’s a greater need for close oversight of the approval process. There may be pressure to fill these open jobs, resulting in unqualified drivers using fraud to get CDL’s. The agency recommends that FMCSA clarify its policies on oversight of states’ CDL programs and improve or implement a way to track these oversight activities.

The trucking industry stands by third party testers.

Sean Garney, the manager of safety policy for American Trucking Associations (ATA), told Transport Topics that the ATA believes these third-party testers reduce wait times to take the test with a minimum of fraud risk. States use third-party testing agencies to cut costs, reduce wait times, decrease backlogs of test takers and to increase test availability.

The danger of fraudulent CDL tests is real. The Orlando Sentinel reports two people pled guilty to federal charges in January in Florida federal court that they organized a scheme to help more than 600 out-of-state residents (some of whom could not read English) get Florida CDL’s by using fraudulent documents and testing techniques. One of the defendants will spend a year in prison and the other ten months.

Many of these drivers were Russian-speaking immigrants from New York, Illinois and California who had little or no training. They planned on obtaining a Florida license to use in their home states. Test takers were wired with an earpiece, hidden microphones and secret cellphones and had answers read to them as they took the test. The school charged about $2,000 and in most cases guaranteed the CDL exam would be passed, even though many of the students spoke English poorly, if at all. The tests were given by a third-party CDL test provider.

If you or a family member has been injured in a truck accident in Kentucky, the Julie Butcher Law Office has extensive experience handling the claims of those injured in commercial motor vehicle accidents. Call us at 859-233-3641 or fill out our contact form so we can talk about the circumstances of your case and how we might help your family obtain justice.