CDL requirements come under fire at House hearing

Commercial driver license (CDL) requirements came under fire at a House Transportation subcommittee hearing July 9. Joseph M Clapp, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) administrator, and Todd Spencer, Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (O-IDA) vice-president, discussed concerns and called for improvements.

Clapp and Spencer testified before the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. The meeting was scheduled in a series of reauthorization hearings on the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.

"The inspector general has reviewed the CDL program and recently issued a report on the weaknesses that exist in state CDL programs," testified Clapp. "I am concerned about licensing fraud and want to ensure that the CDL program works from beginning to end. Many states have either experienced instances of fraudulent activities within their CDL programs, or have testing and licensing practices that make them susceptible to fraud."

Spencer criticized the driving ability of many new truck drivers and recommended mandatory driver training, a graduated drivers license, and a mandatory period of apprenticeship with an experienced driver.

"There has been no change in years to the requirements for obtaining a commercial driver license, and becoming a truck driver," Spencer testified. "Only if drivers get such preparation can we be confident that we have allowed the safest people possible behind the wheel of a truck, and that those people have learned how to operate a heavy truck in many types of weather and on many different road conditions."

One area in which OOIDA members are concerned is the number of illegal aliens they believe are driving trucks on the highways. "As OOIDA detailed in correspondence to this committee’s members this spring, there is a significant problem with some motor carriers and recruiters helping persons from other countries forge visa applications to come here and work," he said. He recommended a moratorium on the recruitment of truck drivers from other countries.

Clapp said the Department of Transportation has been working closely with the states and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators to instruct driver license personnel, examiners, supervisors, law enforcement, and other government officials in the detection of fraudulent activities and fraudulent documents that are used by applicants in the driver licensing process.

"We recently issued a policy memorandum to FMCSA field offices to meet with state licensing experts to develop covert monitoring practices for CDL testers and to provide examples of successful state covert operations," Clapp testified.

Meanwhile, FMCSA has developed a CDL final rule that will provide guidance to states on their additional responsibilities. It addresses such items as non-commercial vehicle violations by a CDL holder, new major disqualifying offenses, masking of convictions, and hardship exceptions. Currently, the rulemaking is being reviewed within DOT, he said.

In addition, FMCSA has proposed an additional $8 million in the 2002 emergency supplemental budget request for research, training and implementation of fraud detection and prevention techniques for state licensing agencies.

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