Washington wants to revamp CDL testing after audit

| 3/5/2007

The state of Washington has decided to revamp its commercial driver's license application process after several audits revealed third-party testers were approving applicants faster than they could test them.

Audits beginning in 2005 showed that some applicants may have had prior contact with third-party testers before their exams, and large numbers of applicants were immediately leaving the state to "flip" CDLs to their home states, said Brad Benfield, a spokesman for the Washington Licensing Department.

Benfield confirmed that 125 CDL applicants had listed a truck driving school in Lake Forest Park, WA, as their home. An additional 79 applicants had listed another school in Woodinville, WA, as home.

As many as 651 applicants may be using false addresses, Benfield told Land Line.

"Over the course of these audits we discovered some kind of alarming things," Benfield said. "We ran into situations where testers were performing more tests than seemed physically possible."

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire has requested $1.5 million annually to pay for 11 test administrators to take over work previously done by a third-party contractor.

Contact between applicants and test administrators also alarmed officials, Benfield said.

Benfield said the FBI and federal Homeland Security Department are investigating CDLs issued in Washington in recent years, which prompted the license department to emphasize a new system by which test administrators are randomly paired with applicants.

"By creating a system to where people aren't getting to pick their own testers we believe it will eliminate a lot of the opportunities for fraud that currently exist," Benfield said.

Washington issues 13,000 new CDLs annually and renews about 30,000 existing CDLs, Benfield said.

Benfield said the state's existing system makes it a target for illegal aliens seeking driver's licenses.

Though license applicants must reside in Washington, the state doesn't require drivers to prove they're legal residents of the United States, Benfield said.

"We see a lot of foreign nationals come here, get a license and leave," he said.

- By Charlie Morasch, staff writer