FMCSA Sets New CDL Testing Standards

From The Trucker’s Report:

Hot on the heels of their discussion on new driver training and how to better ensure the quality of new drivers, the FMCSA has set new CDL testing standards. Hidden among the other new rules that most people will never hear about is the new provision that allows CDL Training schools to test their own students, as long as examiners do not administer skill tests to the same drivers they personally trained.

This may seem like a bit of a mental leap for the FMCSA, but perhaps if they’re trying to ensure a better quality of new drivers, they shouldn’t give CDL training schools the ability to issue the CDL skills test to their own students!

There are several benefits for a CDL school with a very high pass/fail ratio. From a marketing standpoint, a prospective student is likely to see the school with the best ratio as the most desirable school. A higher pass/fail ratio also means a higher job placement percentage, an equally appealing statistic for new drivers. Both of these statistics increase the amount of money a school can charge their students.

Most large CDL schools will not only get paid tuition by the student, but also stand to earn referral fees from the trucking companies that hire their graduates. This means that a student who earns their CDL is much more valuable to a school than one who fails.

Traditionally, the drive for high pass/fail ratios, a higher job placement percentage, and the added referral fees meant that it was in the school’s best interest to give their students the training they need to pass. Now however, if it’s the schools themselves giving the exams, there is no incentive for the schools to do a good job. In fact, as long as they provide the driver with the bare minimum amount of training necessary to pass the written exam, they stand to make more even more money than before while providing even worse training.

Now, admittedly, this sort of thing has been allowed in places where there is no other testing facility within 50 miles, but it’s not supposed to happen unless this is true. Some of the larger CDL mill type schools though have been doing this sneakily for a long time. Now they don’t even have to hide it and smaller schools will think that because it’s allowed, that makes it okay.

How can the FMCSA expect schools to remain unbiased in their exam judgments when they stand to make more money for every student they pass, regardless of their ability?

These few sentences have the horrible potential to take the new driver training quality issue and magnify it ten-fold. These new rules haven’t gone into effect yet. And in a world where a jury just awarded $58.5 million to a family after a man was killed by an inadequately trained truck driver, let’s make sure the FMCSA realizes their blunder before it’s too late.

Update 4/6/13:  Many comments are asking how this is a change from the current law. Currently, some schools are allowed to use their own instructors to certify their own students. These schools have been granted this ability in cases where there is limited opportunity to be certified by a government employee, the most common reason being that the school is not close to a government testing center that has the capacity to certify CDL drivers.  The new law would expand the number of schools that certify their own students.

If you think that drivers entering the industry today couldn’t possibly be more unprepared than they are currently… just wait and watch what happens.



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