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New CDL skills test will be implemented in Pennsylvania

New CDL skills test will be implemented in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced a new, modernized commercial driver's license (CDL) skills test will be implemented starting August 28, 2023.

According to PennDOT, the new test will waive outdated requirements that hold workers back. As new technologies emerge, PennDOT said, the modernized CDL skills test will ensure CDL drivers have the knowledge and skills to drive safely on the road.

The new test will be offered at all PennDOT Driver License Centers that offer CDL skills tests and at all third-party CDL driving skill testers.

According to PennDOT, the skills test has received a “much needed” update to reflect modern vehicle features. Applicants must pass the full CDL Skills Test – which includes pre-trip inspection, basic control and a road test – to receive their CDL. Prospective applicants scheduled to take the test after August 28, 2023, are encouraged to review and study the updated Commercial Driver License Manual to prepare for each portion of the knowledge and driver skills test.

The Vehicle Inspection (VI) test and the Basic Control Skills (BCS) test have also been updated. CDL applicants may be asked to identify up to 90 different components on the vehicle and describe what they are looking for to ensure it is safe and ready for use compared to the current requirement of more than 100 items. In addition, a checklist is now authorized to be used as a memory aid for this segment.

The BCS Test will require CDL applicants to demonstrate four maneuvers to demonstrate control: 

  • Forward Stop to demonstrate an applicant's ability to judge the front of the vehicle; 
  • Straight-Line Backing to demonstrate the applicant's ability to back the vehicle in a straight line; 
  • Forward Offset Tracking to demonstrate an applicant's ability to maneuver the vehicle around other objects while moving forward; and 
  • Reverse Offset Backing to demonstrate an applicant's ability to offset reverse and park the vehicle.

Applicants who have already completed portions of the skills testing prior to August 28 will need to complete current versions of CDL Skills Testing. These applicants should continue to review and study the current Commercial Driver License Manual to prepare for each portion of the knowledge and driver skills test.

“PennDOT is working to make our services more accessible and effective for the people of Pennsylvania," said PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll. "As someone with a CDL, I know that technology in our vehicles has greatly evolved and improved, even in our commercial vehicles. This modernized test is another way PennDOT is enhancing its services to better serve our CDL applicants while still ensuring the safety of school bus passengers."

According to the Shapiro administration, this change was implemented specifically to address the school bus driver shortage. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created a long-term waiver extension that allows a state to modify the Commercial Driver's License test for applicants looking to drive a school bus. 

For example, PennDOT will waive the "Under the Hood requirement" for school bus driver applicants through November 27, 2024, which means that potential school bus drivers will no longer need to take the portion of the CDL test that requires them to identify engine components.

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