Report: Utah illegally licenses nonresident commercial drivers

Salt Lake City-based C.R. England reportedly has been in the midst of a debate this year with local and national lawmakers concerning the legality of non-state residents being issued commercial driver’s licenses.

This year, 1,895 CDL applicants in the state of Utah wrote on their applications that they live at the same home address – C.R. England’s headquarters, according to an article in the Tuesday, Dec. 20 edition of the Deseret Morning News.

Management of C.R. England acknowledged that virtually all drivers who list its address as their own come from out of state to attend its truck driving school for a couple weeks to obtain a Utah commercial driver’s license (CDL) and work for the company nationwide.

Both Utah and federal law – according to a recent Utah attorney general’s opinion – ban states from issuing CDLs to anyone who is not a permanent resident. Utah issues them anyway, but just to nonresident students at truck-driving schools like England’s. According to documents obtained by the newspaper, England was able to halt repeated attempts to enforce laws that could hurt it through lobbying.

Dan England, chief executive officer of C.R. England and president of the Utah Trucking Association, told the Morning News that 95 percent of students at his company’s local school come from out of state, so such a change could close the school that now produces 30 to 40 graduates a week.

Utah Public Safety Commissioner Robert Flowers says that laws soon may change – and he wants to hold off enforcement for now to ensure they do not close 14 or so driving schools unnecessarily in Utah like England’s and worsen a national driver shortage. Flowers said his Department of Public Safety prepared earlier this year to require all license applicants to verify they are permanent Utah residents.

But the Department held off and allowed C.R. England to operate according to status quo. This almost changed when state officials soon became concerned that practice might violate federal law – and jeopardize all federal transportation funds for Utah, the newspaper reported.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made it clear to Utah state officials that states are required to comply with the current regulation limiting the issuance of a CDL to individuals permanently domiciled in their state. Trucking companies mobilized in a way that would manage to forestall that: Dan England says he and officials of the American Trucking Associations met with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to plead their case.

Top federal officials called the state and promised the federal government would not enforce its current rules while it considered rewriting them to help truck driving schools that serve out-of-state students. Confirmation came in a Nov. 21 letter.

On Nov. 15, the state attorney’s office issued its long-awaited opinion, saying that issuing CDLs to out-of-state students violates state and federal law: “It is apparent that the key to establish residency in Utah is a physical presence within this state and a desire to live in Utah for an extended period of time.”

Still, Flowers says his department is in no hurry to enforce that, because the federal government says it is rewriting its rules, and the Utah Legislature also is considering changing relevant state law.