FMCSA Rejects Group’s ‘Unnecessary’ Petition to Require English-Only CDL Knowledge Tests
Washington, D.C. — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has rejected a trucking group’s request to require each state to administer all commercial driver’s license (CDL) testing in English only.
In January, in the wake of the sentencing in the high-profile case of truck driver Rogel Lazaro Aguilera-Mederos, the Small Business in Transportation Coalition (SBTC) petitioned the FMCSA to initiate a rulemaking or preempt any state laws which allow for CDL tests to be given in any language other than English.
“There is no good reason why the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) should not enforce its rule requiring English proficiency on knowledge exams by preempting those state laws and rules that conflict with the Federal English proficiency standard,” SBTC President James Lamb told Transportation Nation Network (TNN) at the time.
Federal regulations do require CDL drivers be able to “read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language…” but states are allowed to administer the knowledge tests in a foreign language, provided no interpreter is used.
Regulations also disallow the use of an interpreter during the CDL skills examination requiring that neither the applicant nor the examiner may communicate in a language other than English.
In a letter denying the SBTC’s request, FMCSA Acting Administrator Robin Hutcheson said such actions were “unnecessary” to ensure public safety.
“Agency regulations already require that CMV drivers have a certain level of English proficiency and require that States administer the skills test only in English,” wrote Hutcheson. “Thus, the initiation of the rulemaking you have requested is unnecessary.”
Further, Hutcheson said the SBTC failed to “identify any State laws, regulations, policies, or practices that allow CMV drivers to drive without the required level of English proficiency or that permit administration of the skills test in a language other than English, in conflict with FMCSA’s regulations.”
“Because you have not demonstrated that there are any State requirements to preempt, there is no basis for the Agency to make a preemption determination,” she said. “If you have specific information that any particular State is not complying with FMCSA’s regulations or has implemented requirements that conflict with the Agency’s regulations, we urge you to submit that information to FMCSA for review and consideration of appropriate action.”
The FMCSA denial is no surprise given that the Agency has long-asserted the burden to determine a driver’s ability to meet the English standard should fall on the carriers which employ them rather than state driver licensing agencies.