FMCSA: COVID-era CDL testing waiver shouldn't be permanent | I-75, other closures upcoming

Trucking news and briefs for Monday, June 5, 2023:

FMCSA voices safety concerns over COVID-era CDL testing waiver

In a new report to Congress, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it has identified some safety concerns with its COVID-era waiver that allowed certain third-party CDL skills test examiners to also conduct CDL knowledge tests.

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 required that FMCSA consider making the waiver permanent, or submit a report explaining why it won’t make the waiver permanent. The waiver allowed some state-authorized third-party skills test examiners to administer the CDL knowledge test without completing a CDL knowledge test training course. Those examiners had to have maintained a valid CDL test examiner certification and have had previously completed a CDL skills test examiner training course that satisfied regulatory requirements.

At the time the waiver was in place, FMCSA had official regulatory guidance in place that stated that third parties could not administer the CDL knowledge test unless a state employee was present. The agency amended that guidance on Feb. 3, 2022, to clarify “that its current statutory authorities and regulations do not prohibit third party testers from administering the CDL knowledge tests.”

FMCSA said it felt the waiver provided an equivalent level of safety as not having the waiver, given the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 emergency. Making it permanent, however, “is another matter entirely and calls for consideration of a comprehensive regulatory framework applicable to the states’ discretionary use of third-party knowledge examiners, subject to public notice and comment.”

The agency said its primary safety concern is that, without additional safeguards, there is a lack of regulatory requirements for states to audit and monitor the operations of third-party knowledge examiners to make sure the tests are being administered properly. FMCSA said the absence of additional safeguards would undermine the “integrity of the CDL knowledge testing program, and the safety benefit derived from CDL knowledge testing.”

FMCSA said it is developing a proposed rulemaking that will offer minimum regulatory standards for states opting to allow third party knowledge testing, which should address the agency’s safety concerns.

[Related: FMCSA updates guidance regarding third-party CDL testers]

Trucking company employees charged in scheme to embezzle from fleet

Two women were arrested Friday, May 26, on a four-count indictment related to their alleged scheme to defraud and embezzle money from their employer, a Texas-based trucking company headquartered in Eagle Pass.

According to court documents, Dina Maldonado Morales, 42, and Laura Ballesteros Haby, 52, allegedly used their positions with MH Group to divert the company’s customer accounts receivable payments to their own bank accounts. The total amount of the embezzled, diverted and stolen funds between July 2017 and April 2019 is alleged to have been approximately $1.4 million.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER database, MH Group is a small fleet with 20 trucks and 15 drivers.

Both Morales and Haby were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and three counts of wire fraud and aiding and abetting wire fraud. If convicted, they each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the conspiracy count and max 20 years in prison on the three wire fraud and aiding and abetting counts.

[Related: Trucking company owner pleads guilty to $40M Ponzi scheme]

I-75 closure planned in Detroit

If your driving takes you on Interstate 75 near Detroit this weekend, you should plan for traffic delays and a detour.

Beginning at 9 p.m. Friday, June 9, crews will be closing I-75 in each direction from US-24 to Saginaw Road for the demolition of the Davisburg Road bridge over the interstate. All traffic will be detoured onto Dixie Highway. Work is expected to be completed by 5 a.m. Monday, June 12, according to a statement from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

This work is part of MDOT’s $160 million investment to resurface and repair I-75 from M-15 (Ortonville Road) to the Oakland/Genesee county line. The project includes resurfacing I-75, repairing 11 bridges, drainage improvements, culvert replacements, signs, and guardrails. Various work will be performed in different locations with different schedules throughout the 15 miles over four years. 

Rhode Island closing access to Route 6/10 Connector to Providence this weekend

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation will temporarily close access to the Route 6/10 Connector inbound to Providence for traffic traveling on Route 6 East at Route 10 beginning Friday, June 9, at 7 p.m.

It will be closed through the weekend, reopening by 6 a.m. on Monday, June 12. During the closure, RIDOT will level and pave a section of the roadway of Route 6 where it merges with Route 10.

RIDOT will establish a detour for local traffic on Route 6 East using the ramp to Route 10 South, where motorists can use the on-ramp to I-95 North (Exit 1B) toward Providence. Drivers can expect travel time delays, and RIDOT encourages drivers to consider alternate routes coming from Johnston and points west toward Providence, such as:

  • Smithfield, and other locations in northwestern Rhode Island: Use I-295 to Route 146 South to Providence. 
  • Western Cranston, Scituate and other towns further west: Use Route 37 East to I-95 North to Providence. 
  • Johnston, North Providence and Cranston: Use major local roadways that lead into Providence.

Additionally, as part of the project, Route 10 North at the Route 6/10 interchange will be reduced to one lane. The off-ramp from Route 10 South to Union Avenue will also be temporarily closed for the weekend, and traffic will follow a detour using the Cranston Street exit.

This closure is the latest in a series of weekend closures to level and pave Routes 6 and 10, making uneven sections of the highway smooth and uniform through the project area. 

ABS issue prompts recall of 91,000 International trucks, buses

Navistar is recalling approximately 91,288 trucks and buses for an issue related to the anti-lock brake system (ABS) dash light, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents.

The recall affects model year 2021-‘24 International HV, HX, LoneStar, LT, MV, eMV, and RH trucks, and 2021-‘24 IC Bus CE, 2021-‘23 IC Bus RE, and 2022-‘23 IC Bus TC commercial buses. 

In the affected units, the ABS indicator light does not remain illuminated when a malfunction exists, whenever the vehicle's ignition is on and the vehicle is in motion. As such, the vehicles don’t comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 121, "Air Brake Systems."

Dealers will update the software, free of charge, to fix the issue. Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed July 24. Owners can contact Navistar's customer service at 800-448-7825 with recall number 23515. NHTSA’s recall number is 23V-370.

[Related: Ford Super Duty recalled for steering column issue]