Dec. 24–State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie is urging the state Department of Motor Vehicles to look into changing new testing requirements needed for a commercial driver’s license in New York state.
Sen. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, and Jefferson County Clerk Gizelle M. Meeks have said that many aspiring truck and school bus drivers have been unable to pass the new test since it was implemented on Oct. 1, causing concerns that there will be an increased shortage of drivers for school districts and trucking companies.
“No one is questioning the need for proper driver training and requirements that put safety above all else, but we cannot continue to require our potential drivers — and our most well-trained drivers — to take tests they cannot pass,” Sen. Ritchie said in a statement. “I am concerned that absent changes, we will undermine our ability to create jobs, fill open positions and provide opportunities for the people I represent, people who have chosen to call New York State home.”
Per new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations, CDL holders must now have a higher level of mechanical knowledge about their vehicles. But because the changes were reportedly abrupt and without any public outreach, many who have recently taken the test are unprepared. Additionally, Sen. Ritchie said she has received complaints that there is no clear explanation of what a passing or failing score is.
In her letter to DMV, Sen. Ritchie called for immediate changes to the testing requirements so that school districts and trucking companies can continue to recruit drivers in a timely manner.
But some owners of north country trucking companies do not foresee the requirements having a significant impact on their ability to hire anytime soon.
Randy L. Lavalle, who owns Potsdam-based trucking company Lavalle Transportation Inc., said he only hires truck drivers who have already had at least two years of driving experience elsewhere.
“We don’t have new hires taking the test and coming to work for us immediately,” he said.
This is because the insurance market for trucking businesses is small, he said, thus making it safer and cheaper for companies to cover drivers who are experienced.
Watertown-based Teals Express Inc. Owner Joseph Teal echoed Mr. Lavalle’s sentiments, adding that he does not hire drivers with less than five years of truck driving experience.
He and Mr. Lavalle noted that new electronic driving logs now mandated for long-haul trucks are actually doing more to drive older truckers out of the business because they are unwilling to use electronic equipment. Mr. Lavalle said many veteran drivers are retiring early because of the mandate.
The new CDL test requirements have drawn more concern from school districts, however.
Local school districts have recently expressed concerns that the test will exacerbate a shortage of bus drivers that has occurred in the last few years.
School districts have lighter requirements than trucking companies, with Carthage Central School District Superintendent Peter Turner recently telling the Times it hires “someone who likes kids, and can operate a bus safely.”
FMCSA spokesman Duane DeBruyne said “the comprehensive CDL training requirements, which emphasize safety and promote driving efficiency, will result in lives saved, reductions in fuel consumption and emissions, vehicle maintenance cost reductions, and industry-wide performance improvements.”
But BOCES Health, Safety, and Risk Management Services Director Fred Hauck said that requiring drivers to have such knowledge is redundant and putting unnecessary stress on aspiring school bus drivers.
(c)2017 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)
Visit Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) at www.watertowndailytimes.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.