The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on May 5 issued its final rule amending the commercial driver’s license knowledge and skills testing standards and establishing new minimum federal standards for states to issue a commercial learner’s permit.
The final rule requires a permit holder meet virtually the same requirements as those for a license holder, including driver disqualification penalties. The rule also specifically prohibits a motor carrier from using a driver who does not hold a current and appropriate permit or CDL to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
The final rule implements relevant sections of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) and the Security and Accountability For Every Port Act of 2006. Many of the program areas and issues dealt with in this rule are also addressed in the Department of Homeland Security’s final rule implementing the REAL ID Act. FMCSA says it has coordinated efforts with DHS to write regulations that neither overlap nor conflict.
Successful completion of a knowledge test, currently a prerequisite for the CDL, now will be required for a permit. The rule requires states to use driver and examiner reference materials, state testing questions and exercises, and state testing methodologies that FMCSA has preapproved. It includes prohibiting use of foreign language interpreters in the administration of the knowledge and skills tests to reduce the potential for fraud.
The final rule requires that each applicant obtain a permit and hold it for at least 14 days before applying for a CDL. It establishes a minimum age of 18 for a permit, which must be a separate document from the CDL, tamperproof and include the same information as the CDL. The only endorsements allowed on the CLP are a restricted passenger endorsement, a school bus endorsement and a tank vehicle endorsement.
The final rule also strengthens the legal presence requirements and increases the documentation required for permit and CDL applicants to demonstrate their legal presence in the United States. The rule also addresses applicants who wish to attend a driver training school in a state other than the applicant’s state of domicile; states are required to recognize permits issued by other states for training purposes.
The rule also limits the initial and renewal periods for both permits and CDLs, and clarifies under what circumstances an applicant must surrender his/her permit, CDL or non-CDL. It also requires all states to use standardized endorsement and restriction codes on CDLs.
This rule also includes requirements to improve the ability of states to detect and prevent fraudulent testing and licensing activity in the CDL program. States found in substantial noncompliance with the final rule’s fraud control measures may be subject to the loss of federal-aid highway funds.
FMCSA’s final rule is effective July 9. States must be in compliance by July 8, 2014. To read the final rule, go to www.regulations.gov; the docket number is FMCSA-2007-27659.