Ohio bill advances that calls for English-only CDL tests

| 6/12/2008

An Ohio House panel has approved a bill that would require aspiring truck drivers to have a firm grasp of the English language to obtain a commercial driver’s license.

The House Infrastructure, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs Committee voted to advance a bill – HB409 – to the chamber floor that would require the state’s CDL test to be given entirely in English.

Since last fall, Ohio has allowed the written part of the test to be given in Spanish. Interpreters are allowed to assist applicants who don’t speak English. However, the driving portion of the test is required to be English-only.

Rep. William Batchelder, R-Medina, said the bill is about more than being able to speak English.

“When you have truck drivers that do not speak or understand English, safety concerns increase as it is difficult for them to read and understand road signs in English,” he said in a written statement.

Others point out that federal regulations require applicants to be able to “read and speak the English language sufficiently” to get a CDL.

Opponents say there are no studies that suggest English proficiency makes better drivers. They also voice concern that adopting the strict standards would push certain trucking companies to go “underground” to hire people to sit behind the wheel of trucks.

If the bill clears the House, it would advance to the Senate for further consideration.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Ohio in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor