According to Associated Press reports, the state began offering its regular driver's license test in Spanish for the first time in eight years this week, but truckers must continue taking the test in English.
"The funding wasn't there, but we felt that moving forward with a Spanish version of the driver's test was the right thing to do," said Gordon Eden, director of the state Motor Vehicle Division.
Eden told the AP that the division does not have the money to offer the commercial driver's license test in Spanish as well.
Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said New Mexico should join surrounding states in offering the commercial exam in Spanish.
"There's a long tradition in New Mexico of bilingualism that is reflected in our state constitution," he said, pointing out that ballots, tax assessments and other license tests are available in Spanish.
New Mexico discontinued the Spanish version of the commercial driver's test in 1993, when new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations went into effect.
They require drivers to "read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language and to respond to official inquiries and to make entries on reports and records."
The regulations were not intended to dictate to states how they should test drivers, said David Longo, a spokesman for the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C.
"We have minimum guidelines for states to implement on their own commercial driver's licensing program," he told the AP.
Eden said the written test in English is the only way New Mexico has to ensure drivers comply with federal regulations. A state's failure to gauge qualifications could cost federal funds for highway safety, construction and improvement programs, he added.
However Longo disagreed, saying federal money is not linked to how states choose to test commercial drivers, AP reported.