FMCSA allowing cameras to replace people for CDL road tests

Skills-test examiners will not be required to be physically present in a truck cab to conduct commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills tests during the COVID-19 emergency if states can show they can safely replace them with technology such as in-cab cameras and cell phones.

The expanded guidance issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on April 13 also allows states to use web cameras and online testing to administer the CDL knowledge tests instead of having them be conducted in-person by an examiner. The guidance supplements a three-month waiver issued on March 28 lifting restrictions for drivers with commercial learner’s permits (CLPs).

“In light of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and the need to integrate [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance while ensuring continued movement of emergency supplies and equipment during the public health emergency, FMCSA is encouraging [state driver’s licensing agencies, or SDLAs] to test drivers while practicing social distancing,” the agency stated.

“I give the FMCSA credit for thinking outside the box during this emergency,” Don Lefeve, president and CEO of the Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA), told FreightWaves. “I’m hopeful that states that have shut down their motor vehicle departments or are operating with fewer employees are considering this and will implement it.”

For CDL skills testing, the FMCSA said states may want to consider either having two employees “in a sufficiently large follow vehicle (seated six feet apart) or else having one employee in a follow vehicle while a recording device that is set up on the vehicle records the test, viewing the applicant’s performance after the examiner has stopped driving, and then immediately deleting the recording.”

To use video and camera technology for the skills and/or knowledge testing, FMCSA requests states submit to the agency a plan that shows how the state intends to:

  • administer the test without compromising safety
  • observe the skills test from a second vehicle
  • observe the knowledge test without being physically present
  • leverage technology
  • score the road test
  • verify a knowledge-test taker’s identity
  • provide any other information the state believes will help FMCSA determine whether the test administration is comparable to a model used by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, which the FMCSA uses as a CDL testing standard.

FMCSA said it will consider the plans until June 30, 2020.

The agency also emphasized in its guidance that its emergency order issued in March (and recently extended through May 15) does not allow SDLAs to issue a CDL or a CLP without requiring the driver to take a skills test. “The state shall only issue a CLP or CDL to a driver who has passed the knowledge and skills tests” unless an exception applies, it stated.

In addition, FMCSA noted in response to questions regarding double- and triple-trailer endorsements that SDLA’s cannot issue such endorsements unless a driver has completed the knowledge test.