The Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety aims to plug the holes in the Commercial Driver's License program.
In a draft five-year strategic plan, a copy of which has been obtained by Newport Communications, the federal safety agency outlines a plan to cut back on CDL fraud, improve record-keeping, improve state compliance and keep track of the program.
The CDL is widely acknowledged to be a success story for truck safety. A study accompanying the strategic plan points out that the CDL limits the old practice of spreading driving violations among a pocketful of licenses, and CDL testing has eliminated many unqualified drivers.
Still, there are problems. As OMCHS points out in the study, not all states administer the license in the same way, and punishments for violations vary from court to court. For its part, the federal government needs to do a better job of bringing states up to speed on their responsibilities.
And, the safety agency says, the trucking industry needs to do better. The industry was a good partner while the CDL program was getting under way, but once the licensing effort was completed, "industry and government seemed less united." The agency suggests that the Federal Highway Administration look for ways to expand trucking's participation -- particularly for a way to target truckers who continue to operate while they are disqualified.
The draft plan calls for getting a better handle on driver performance by getting citation and conviction information distributed more quickly and accurately. It also would:
· Set standards for how the CDL program should perform.
· Determine how effective the program is now, focus on the problems, test solutions and establish a formal performance evaluation process.
· Establish a program of incentives and sanctions for states to participate in the program.
· Establish a CDL support structure, offering training and technical assistance to states.
· Figure out how much it will cost to manage the program.
· Develop a way to accurately identify CDL applicants -- presumably through fingerprints or a biometric identifier such as retinal imaging.