WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill in Congress aims to curb testing delays for commercial driver’s license (CDL) applicants.
The bipartisan bill, H.R. 4719, was introduced in the House on Dec. 21 by congressmen Jimmy Duncan (R-Tenn.) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).
Long wait times for CDL applicants in some states is an issue that has hampered driver recruiting efforts in multiple industries, including pupil transportation.
A 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office found that seven states had a typical wait time of 15 to 21 days for a CDL skills test appointment. Eight states had delays of more than 21 days, according to the report.
H.R. 4719 calls for a federal program, to be established by Feb. 7, 2020, to ensure that states are timely in conducting skills tests and retests for CDL applicants. Starting on that date, states would have to submit quarterly reports to the U.S. transportation secretary with data on their average wait times and number of sites available for CDL skills tests.
The legislation defines a “skills test delay” as an average period of more than seven days, beginning when an applicant is certified by a training provider to sit for a CDL skills test and ending when the applicant takes the test.
Under the bill, states that don’t limit their testing appointment wait times to seven days could have up to 4% of their highway funding withheld by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The Commercial Vehicle Training Association formed a coalition of groups from multiple industries to support H.R. 4719. The National School Transportation Association and the New York School Bus Contractors Association are among the groups that joined the effort.
In a Feb. 14 letter to House transportation committee leaders, the coalition pointed to the problems that CDL skills testing delays are causing.
“Since a CDL is required for an individual to begin working as a commercial motor vehicle operator, these delays are preventing individuals from entering the workforce expeditiously at a time when drivers are in short supply,” the coalition said in the letter. “Trucking, motorcoach, and school bus industries are all facing severe driver shortage issues.”
New Jersey is among states that have struggled with long wait times — two to three months, in some cases — for CDL testing appointments. On that front, last year New Jersey passed a law aimed at accelerating the CDL process by enabling private vendors to provide testing.
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