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With CDL skills tests a target for national attention, Jersey the latest state to OK 3rd party tests

Trucker taking a CDL skills test

In some states, CDL applicants must wait two or three months to take a skills test after leaving training, says CVTA President Don Lefeve. (Photo by Jim Allen/365 Trucking)

A recent push by the state of New Jersey to allow CDL applicants to take their skills test through third-party providers aims to reduce the delay prospective truckers encounter, a problem many states face due mostly to a lack of resources for hiring qualified examiners, says Commercial Vehicle Trainers Association President Don Lefeve.

A bill passed by the New Jersey legislature in November and signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie last month establishes a pilot program for third party vendors to provide CDL skills tests in lieu of state officers. The program will be limited at first, just three designated third-party providers, but lawmakers intend for the program to grow as more regulations are developed for third-party testers.

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Delays in CDL skills tests are a prominent lobbying agenda item for CVTA in the coming years, Lefeve says. It’s not uncommon for CDL applicants to complete a month-long training program and then have to wait two or three months to take a skills test — the last hurdle before receiving a CDL. “They’re ready to enter the workforce,” he says. “When someone exits training, their skills are at their height. If they’re delayed, their skills are going to deteriorate. In some states we’ve seen this problem grow and grow over the past couple of years.”

Deterioration of skills could lead to failed tests — a waste of resources for schools and for carriers who may have trained drivers in house in hopes of having them fill a driving position.

Lefeve says many states don’t have the money or ability to hire qualified examiners. Many states also bar third party vendors from providing skills tests. “It’s a supply and demand issue,” Lefeve says. “States were simply unaware of this. They weren’t really keeping states on it. They say ‘We’re doing the best we can with what we have.’”

Lefeve’s CVTA hopes to push Congress to address the issue. In addition to finding a way to close the gap between training and testing — either via an expansion of use of third parties or another mechanism — the group hopes to lobby lawmakers to establish better uniformity for the tests from state to state.

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Editor’s note: This story originally stated three fleets — C.R. England, CRST Expedited and Prime Inc. — have requested or have been granted waivers to allow truckers who have not yet completed their CDL skills test to drive in team operations. In fact, the waivers for the fleets applies to drivers who have completed training and completed a CDL skills test but have not received a hard copy of their CDL from their licence-issuing state.

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James Jaillet is the News Editor for CCJ and Overdrive. Reach him at jjaillet@randallreilly.com.