WASHINGTON — Flexibility sought by the state of Florida in the current CDL training regulations could — if approved by safety officials — cut down on lost wages for drivers, according to driver training schools.

In comments filed Wednesday on Florida’s exemption petition, which was filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration last month, Danny Bradford, Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) chairman, said that the additional flexibility that the exemption would give Florida’s CDL testing program would help address skills testing delays.

“These delays put jobs on hold for 258,744 drivers and resulted in over $1 billion in lost wages for these drivers,” Bradford stated, referring to an independent economic analysis commissioned by CVTA in 2016. This in turn caused an estimated loss of $234 million in federal income taxes and $108 million in state and local sales taxes that would have been generated in the absence of skills testing delays, he pointed out.

Such delays would be even more costly now, Bradford contends, because driver wages have improved since CVTA’s analysis. He cited an American Trucking Associations study showing that driver compensation increased 18% between 2019 and 2021.

Federal regulations require the three-part CDL skills test — pre-trip inspection, basic vehicle control skills and on-road skills — to be administered and completed in that order. If an applicant fails one part of the test, he or she is not allowed to start the next part of the test but instead must return on a different day to retake all three parts.

But as it explains in its petition, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) wants prospective new drivers — at the discretion of skills testers — to be allowed to continue testing subsequent segments of the CDL skills test if they fail the pre-trip inspection or the basic vehicle control skills segments. The applicant would be allowed to return at a later date to retest only the failed segments.

In supporting the agency’s exemption, Bradford also said that skills testing delays can cause a new driver’s skills to deteriorate.

“The longer an applicant must wait to take a CDL skills test, the further they are from the training they received to prepare for the exam,” he said. “Allowing an applicant to test as quickly as possible and begin their job means they will continue repetition in the skills needed to be a safe commercial motor vehicle operator and will retain more of what they learned in their training.”

The National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC), which represents more than 500 companies that support or specialize in cargo-tank services, agreed with CVTA, noting that if the petition is approved, skills testers in Florida will be able to devote less time to areas in which drivers have already shown they are competent, increasing the efficiency of the CDL credentialing process.

“Given the well documented commercial driver shortage, it is imperative that we reduce barriers to individuals attaining the proper credentials for operating commercial vehicles,” wrote William Lusk, NTTC director of education and government relations.

Others saw potential safety problems, however. “An applicant failing the pre-trip and then being allowed to continue is not only unsafe but irresponsible,” according to one commenter.

“The FMCSA rules set forth say a pre-trip must be done and the driver must be sure the vehicle is in good operating order prior to moving the vehicle. Allowing the test to continue goes against that rule as well as what the CDL schools are trying to teach.”

Another argued that if new driver applicants are having a hard time learning how to successfully conduct a pre-inspection, “maybe we should toughen up on the instructors to do a better job of training individuals,” the commenter wrote. “I have trained and tested thousands of new drivers, and with proper training, none have failed. It’s all in the training.”

Related articles:

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FMCSA proposes new requirements for driverless trucks

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

The post CVTA: Trucker wages at stake in Florida’s CDL exemption request appeared first on FreightWaves.

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