A bill atop Gov. Matt Blunt’s desk would call for trucker-hopefuls in Missouri to prove they have a firm grasp of the English language to obtain a commercial driver’s license. The bill also would outlaw “sanctuary” cities in the state.
A conference committee made up of select members from the House and Senate waited until the final hours of the regular session to sign off on the bill – HB1549 – that would require the written test to be offered only in English. The full chambers followed suit shortly thereafter.
Applicants would also be required to understand traffic signs and signals written in English. They would be prohibited from using translators while taking the test.
Supporters say they are concerned that people are allowed to drive trucks on Missouri roads without a command of the English language. They point out that the federal regulation, 391.11, states that applicants are required to:
“read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records …”
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.
Advocates for the English standard say it’s a matter of safety.
Officials with the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association are encouraged by the pursuit in Missouri and 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 would prohibit 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 not to 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