Ohio bill would mandate English-only CDL tests

| 2/4/2008

A bill in the Ohio House would require aspiring truck drivers to have a firm grasp of the English language to obtain a commercial driver’s license.

Sponsored by Rep. William Batchelder, R-Medina, the bill 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.

Batchelder 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.

Ohio isn’t alone in pursuit of rules intended to make sure trucker-hopefuls can communicate in English. Similar efforts are being sought in statehouses that include Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Virginia.

Supporters say restrictions are needed in states to help ensure that aspiring truckers and other drivers have a firm grasp of the English language before they obtain their license to drive. They also offer reminders about the federal rules.

Opponents say there are no studies that suggest English proficiency makes better drivers. Others say there are more pressing issues to address in the state.

The bill – HB409 – is in the House Infrastructure, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs Committee.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor