Missouri law mandates English-only CDL tests, forbids ‘sanctuary’ cities

| 7/18/2008

Gov. Matt Blunt has signed a bill into law that calls for trucker-hopefuls in Missouri to prove they have a firm grasp of the English language to obtain a commercial driver’s license. It also outlaws “sanctuary” cities in the state.

Previously HB1549, the new law requires the written test to be offered only in English. Applicants’ ability to understand traffic signs and signals written in English also will be required. They will be prohibited from using interpreters while taking the test.

Supporters said they are concerned that people are allowed to drive trucks on Missouri roads without a command of the English language. They point out that federal regulations require applicants to be able to “read and speak the English language sufficiently” to get a CDL.

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

Advocates for the English standard said it’s a matter of safety.

Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association are encouraged by the rule change in Missouri and pursuit of changes in other states to make sure aspiring truckers can communicate in English.

Rick Craig, OOIDA’s director of regulatory affairs, said that making the English requirement standard for both portions of the test is vital and all states should be doing it.

“It’s the only way you’re really going to know for sure” that applicants can communicate in English, he said.

Another provision in the bill prohibits local governments from enacting policies that give sanctuary to illegal immigrants. State funding would be cut for localities that do not cooperate with federal officials trying to enforce immigration laws.

Advocates for the bill point out that law enforcement in some states make it a policy for their officers to not ask suspects about their immigration status. In fact, there are 60 so-called sanctuary cities throughout the nation that are recognized by rule or regulation, The Associated Press reported.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor