FMCSA may address CDL domicile issue in 2006

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration expects to address the issue of truck driving school graduates who don’t live in the state where they trained within the next year, according to the Truckload Carriers Association.

In May, Congress passed the Real ID Act, which requires states issue licenses using more uniform and secure methods. FMCSA will investigate the domicile issue as part of these new regulations, but its immediate attention is on the hours-of-service rule, agency administrator Annette Sandberg said a June 27 meeting with TCA and American Trucking Associations representatives, according to TCA.

FMCSA spokesman James Lewis did not respond immediately to questions about the agency’s plans.

Many states issue CDLs to nonresidents, which helps graduates attending school outside their home state.

However, federal regulations require applicants establish state domicile before that state can issue a CDL. As of Sept. 30, 2005, any state not following that provision of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 will lose federal highway funds unless it complies by October 2006.

This would mean all out-of-state graduates will have to return to their home state to obtain a CDL and often will lack use of a truck for the skills test. This enforcement will create an “additional hurdle” that negatively affects the newly trained driver and the long-time driver shortage, the association stated.

TCA has asked that FMCSA replace the domicile stipulation with a requirement of proof of U.S. citizenship.

A 2002 FMCSA audit to examine improvement of CDL licensing and testing included a survey of 13 states. Only four states required proof that applicants were U.S. citizens or in this country legally, and an equal number of states required the applicant show domicile in the state where he applied for the CDL. Other states required only temporary residency, and still others left residency undefined.

One FMCSA official responsible for CDL policy, but never identified in that audit, acknowledged that some states lack driving schools and that the agency is considering changing the domicile rule, but that nothing had been proposed.