Stop Giving CDLs to Drivers Who Don’t Know English, Trucker Urges Top FMCSA Officials

Dallas, TX – It’s a topic that’s often discussed among truckers on social media and at truck stops, but has become incendiary and uncomfortable for many in today’s political environment.

Must operators of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) be able to read and speak English to lawfully obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

Federal law states that “a motor carrier shall not require or permit a person to drive a commercial motor vehicle” unless that person:

Can read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records.

Is there a growing number of truckers who do not meet the federal standard?


“Yes,” says 47-year-old owner operator Joshua Williams, of Memphis, TN.

He believes it’s a “big problem.”

So much so that he confronted top officials with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) about it last Friday in a public listening session regarding the Agency’s newly proposed changes to hours of service (HOS) rule.

“You don’t have to speak English or understand English to get a commercial driver’s license anymore,” Williams asserted. “That’s something that needs to change. It hurts us.”

The mood of the room grew palpably tense as Williams sounded off about how he believes immigrants are “taking advantage of our laws.”

“People can’t read signs. They don’t understand English, but yet we’re hitting bridges, we’re hitting buildings, we’re going down places that we ain’t supposed to be going down,” Williams said to FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez and his top deputies.


He continued: “A sign says no trucks… they make right turns and take bridges out… that’s something that really needs to change.”

Williams, who has been an owner operator since 2011 and primarily hauls oversized military loads, didn’t stop there.

“They have no idea what they’re doing when you tell ‘em they’re not chaining it down right. They don’t like it. They don’t understand,” Williams commented.

An FMCSA official then responded to Williams asking, “Do you have a comment on the hours of service NPRM? What we are here to discuss.”

Williams moved on to discuss his desire for a military exemption to the HOS rules.

You can view the exchange by clicking HERE. (Begins at approximately 56:00)


However, he spoke with Transportation Nation Network (TNN) about why he chose to take such an opportunity to air his grievance on this issue.

He said, for him, it is a matter of safety.

“Wrecks have gone up. The wrecks have gone up because we are giving more CDLs to people who can’t read English,” he contended.

He referred to the flurry of recent CDL bribery scandals in states such as Texas and California as evidence the problem is worsening.

“They are paying folks off and pushing them through,” he said.

“It’s a huge problem and it needs to be addressed,” Williams continued. “If you come to our country you need to learn our language.”


Can CDL Testing Be Administered In A Foreign Language?

This is a question we at TNN receive frequently.

Earlier this year we reached out to the FMCSA to get specific clarification on the testing rules.

An FMCSA spokesperson reiterated that even though testing is conducted at the state level, each state must adhere to federal guidelines.

Those guidelines state that for the CDL skills test:

Applicants must be able to understand and respond to verbal commands and instructions in English by a skills test examiner, and neither the applicant nor the examiner may communicate in a language other than English during the skills test.


However, regulations pertaining to the CDL knowledge test are a bit different, the FMCSA spokesperson told TNN.

He referred us to the federal guidelines that state:

Tests can be administered in a foreign language, provided that no interpreter is used in administering the test.

To read more on the CDL testing regulations click HERE.


Woman Who Took Bribes And Issued Fraudulent California CDLs Sentenced To Prison

Truck Driving School Owner Allegedly Paid CDL Test Examiner To Pass Students

Trucker Uses Fake Identity To Obtain CDL Then Sues DOT

500 Drivers May Have To Retake CDL Test After Criminal Investigation Launched

Texas DPS Revokes 215 CDLs Amid Scandal, Admits There May Be More

GUILTY: California Truck Driving School Owner Admits $4.2M Veterans CDL Fraud

New Lawsuit Alleges Immigrant Truck Drivers Who Don’t Understand Much English Are Being Victimized

A new lawsuit filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County alleges two Illinois-based trucking companies are exploiting immigrant truck drivers’ lack of proficiency of the English language in an “unjust enrichment” scheme.

In a proposed class action suit filed Thursday, August 8, 2019, plaintiff Zhanat Tlenchiyev accuses Patriot Transport Inc. and its sister company, Expeditor Systems Inc., of engaging in an “exploitative scheme” targeting truck drivers who recently immigrated to the United States.


Tlenchiyev alleges that owners of the two companies, Ivan Zabolotovsky and Igor Terletsky, exploit immigrants by improperly classifying them as independent contractors, making illegal deductions from their paychecks and failing to compensate them for all miles driven.

To read more on this case click HERE.



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Comment (7)

  1. The law is on the books. FMCSA does not administer the tests. That is done at the state level. It is the STATES, within their rights, to enforce or not. FMCSA has no control over that. THAT is why connecting with other drivers and fighting issues at STATE level is SO important.

  2. Yes I totally agree NO ENGLISH NO CDL
    What happens when one of more immigrant truck driver kills someone
    Or multiple people this will definitely hurt the trucking industry.
    On top of this these immigrants are taking good paying jobs away
    From hard working americans

  3. We have to stop giving these people good paying jobs , don’t get me wrong everyone looks for a better life
    At some point we all do, but if you come into this country illegally and you don’t speak or write English
    Then you should earn your way like everyone else like americans do every day of their lives. Suppose one or more
    Immigrant truck drivers kills someone or multiple people this will hurt the trucking industry.

    The trucking companies are at fault too and should be dealt with immediately. And I totally agree NO ENGLISH, NO CDL I SAY THESE IMMIGRANTS MUST SUPPLY A BIRTH CERTICATE AND THOUGH BACK GROUND CHECKS,now a days you can pretty much fake any documents today and this is what’s happening

  4. I know they give CDLs out illegally to people who can’t speak English! One time, a driver left his headlights on and I tried to tell him, he had no idea what I was saying, so I took him around to the front of his truck to show him. Another time a driver needed direction to the shipper he was looking for, he just kept pointing to the address on his paperwork, I tried to explain how to get there, but he had no idea what I was saying! This stuff happens all the time! The law is there! Abide by it!

  5. Very Well Said. This is VERY DIFFICULT to think this man on January 7th in the Maine Superior Court is going to walk away with a SLAP ON THE HAND‼️ Gabrielle is Gone due to his negligence, he never even applied his breaks‼️ He was sited not even a year before for Failure to Yield & Failure to stop.
    We need to all pool Together and get JUSTICE FOR GABRIELLE AND OTHERS LOST IN THESE TRAGIC ACCIDENTS‼️‼️‼️‼️

  6. I don’t understand why this is an issue . I plan on living in France for 6 to 12 months in the future and going to used a skilled exemption to get my CDL there as a source of income to supplement my savings so I can afford to be there . Thing is just like here I have to be able to communicate with Shippers , receivers and law enforcement to do the job . Sure a lot of people speak English ( being the language of science and all ) but not everyone does therefore I’m REQUIRED to learn the language first , as well as a few others since I’ll be able to travel and drive anywhere in the E.U . It’s not a matter of racism in general and the argument that immigrants are taking jobs raises that suspicion of course but it’s is a matter of public safety . Therefore even though some ( the minority) people may have a misguided reasoning it’s still an issue that must be addressed and enforced . We all have families out on public roads and people who can’t read ( including those who simply chose not to read ) put them at danger everyday and do not belong on the road with my family and children , or anyone elses .

  7. Let’s stop sugar coating and being so PC. Many of these immigrants have no business driving commercial vehicles period. They are constantly swerving all over the highways. They speed everywhere including parking lots. When bad weather strikes you can count on seeing at least 1 or more of them in ditches. It would take lies by the government to deny the fact that many accidents are involving immigrants. And considering how small the number they represent this should be cause for concern. Eventually this will cost every driver their jobs when the automate trucks in the next decade. And no, the human passenger in these trucks will be temporary. It’s not going to be permanent as every manufacturer of these has said. Drivers are to cowardly and full of excuses to get anything done. No trucks no products. Yet every excuse is made not to park until driver treatment is improved. We are underpaid, brokers get wealthy sitting on their butts by a load board. Do drivers do anything? Nope cowards.


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