Interim Study on third-party CDL examiners highlights the need to improve driver license testing procedure in Oklahoma
The Transportation Committee met last week to hear my interim study regarding driver’s license testing. We heard from Jeff Hankins, Director of the Driver License Services Division, Tammy Shepherd, Deputy Director and CDL Coordinator, and Kent Burris, Assistant Superintendent and CFO of Central Tech, a professional truck driver training school.
The study revealed several issues of interest. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) is going through an extensive modernization and upgrade of their entire system which was predicted to take 24 to 30 months, bringing its projected completion date to 2020. At that time, they hope to offer online services in an effort to reduce wait times and improve efficiency. Until then, it’s clear that there is a shortage of examiners and third party testers, which has adverse effects statewide. Attending committee members indicated driver license testing is a statewide problem.
In addition to these internal difficulties, Deputy Director Shepherd shared with the committee at this week’s meeting that there were 1,029 “no shows” at confirmed appointments from January to September of this year. That means examiners travel to the sites for the confirmed appointment many times, only to discover there’s no one to teach, or only four students instead of the registered ten students expected. This adversely affects the whole system, costing taxpayers’ money and resulting in longer wait times without penalizing those who skipped the test without notice.
School bus driver training has its challenges as well. Depending on where the applicant is located and where the nearest training site is located, along with the requirement to provide the school bus to take the test, these can all be difficult hurdles to overcome. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Darcy Jech addressed this situation specifically and suggested that DPS reach out to the schools across the state, reminding them that they are willing to make appointments and meet closer to home for school bus testing. Communication will be the key to reducing those frustrations.
Legislative solutions may need to be considered to address these problems. It is clear that we need to increase the number of examiners and testing sites in the state. We need to reduce wait times. We need a better communication system for those who sign up to take a test, but don’t show up, adversely affecting the system without penalty. Perhaps if we can get those wait times down to two weeks instead of 45 days, this will help truckers with their road schedules.
I think we may also need to consider legislation for allowing a designated family member to bring teenagers for testing. This would expand options for parents who currently have to take time off from work, and perhaps reduce wait times.
I found Central Tech’s presentation interesting. I asked if there was a possibility that they might consider being a third party examiner for the state at large rather than just their students, and Mr. Burris indicated they may consider that possibility for a fee. Central Tech’s existing facilities already feature 45-50 acres of land, which includes 3.2 miles of paved surface that they use for training and testing. This may be a real possibility that I think we should explore and see if it would be a good fit for the state.
Until next time,
Senator Mark Allen