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What Are WSDOT's Rules For Semi-Truck Licensing?

semi-truck license washingtonIndividual states are responsible for the licensing process as it relates to truck drivers and other operators of Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs). Specifically, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, states “issue the licenses and assess the qualifications and validity of each of their drivers.”

The scope of states’ responsibilities when it comes to the trucking industry centers mostly on the ability to become certified or licensed to operate a CMV in the first place. The FMCSA, DOT, and OSHA guidelines that we have discussed thus far in this book are not even applicable until a driver has passed through states’ background checks and officially obtained a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

Steps To Obtaining A CDL In Washington

When a prospective driver applies for a CDL, or a previously-certified driver attempts to renew his or her CDL, the first step for the state is to review the drivers’ records for that state, as well as the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) and National Driver Registry (NDR). This allows the state licensing agency to determine if the driver has been disqualified from obtaining a CDL in that state or any other state, or if the driver already has a CDL from another state.

If a driver does already have a CDL from another jurisdiction, then the driver will be required to give up his or her CDL from that jurisdiction before being issued a new CDL.

States are required to obtain the prospective driver’s comprehensive driving records and other related information from all jurisdictions where the applicant has previously obtained a license. Per the FMCSA, the new state must take the following steps in the licensing process:

  • Require the driver to certify as to the type of operation the driver expects to conduct and post the driver’s self-certification to the State’s driver history record;
  • Obtain the original or a copy of the medical examiner’s certificate documenting that the driver is physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle and retain the certificate for three years beyond the issue date of the certificate; and
  • Post the information from the medical examiner’s certificate within 10 business days to the CDLIS driver record.

Washington's CDL Knowledge And Skills Test

States are also tasked with developing their own CDL knowledge and skills tests for drivers to complete during the licensing process. These tests must meet the minimum federal standards set forth by the DOT and FMCSA, which also provide written manuals for drivers and examiners that states may use if they decide not to create their own. The FMCSA permits states to authorize a third party to develop training materials and conduct testing of CDL applicants, provided that they meet the following conditions:

  • Tests must be the same as those given by the State.
  • The third party has an agreement with the state containing, at a minimum, provisions that:
    • Allow the FMCSA, or its representative, and the State to conduct random examinations, inspections, and audits without prior notice.
    • Require the State to conduct on-site inspections at least once yearly.
    • Require that all third party examiners meet the same qualification and training standards as State examiners.
  • At least annually, State employees must evaluate the programs by taking third party tests as if they were test applicants, or by testing a sample of drivers tested by the third party and then comparing pass/fail rates.
  • The State must take prompt and appropriate remedial action against the third-party testers in the event that the third party fails to comply with State or Federal standards for the CDL testing program, or with any other terms of the third-party contract. 
Chris Davis
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Chris Davis is the founder of Davis Law Group, P.S. in Seattle, WA.