Missouri law now mandates English-only CDL tests

| 8/28/2008

Aspiring truck drivers in Missouri now must prove they have a firm grasp of the English language to obtain a commercial driver’s license. The new rule took effect Thursday, Aug. 28.

Signed into law this spring, it requires the state’s written CDL test to be offered only in English. Applicants will also be required to have the ability to understand traffic signs and signals written in English. They will be prohibited from using interpreters while taking the test.

Advocates for the protection said the change is necessary because of concerns 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 say it’s a matter of safety.

The rule change is welcome news to officials with the Missouri-based Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. 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,” Craig said.

Another provision included in the bill outlaws “sanctuary” cities in the state. It 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 who are trying to enforce immigration laws.

Advocates for the new rule point out that law enforcement in some states makes 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.

The sanctuary cities provision takes effect Jan. 1, 2009.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor