Pennsylvania bill would require English-only CDL testing

| 7/7/2011

Even with the majority of state legislatures having wrapped up their work for the year, lawmakers in various states, including Pennsylvania, continue to discuss bills of relevance to the trucking industry.

In the Keystone State, one bill – HB1180 – is intended to ensure that aspiring truck drivers have a firm grasp of the English language before they obtain a commercial driver’s license.

There are nine states that already limit licensing tests for regular driver’s licenses to English only. About a half dozen states have the language mandate for commercial drivers. In contrast, five states offer their tests in at least 17 languages. California leads the nation with 32 language offerings.

Pennsylvania law now limits the written or oral portion of the knowledge test for CDLs to be given in English or Spanish. A bill in the House Transportation Committee would mandate the state’s CDL test to be given entirely in English.

Supporters say they are concerned that people are allowed to drive on roads without a command of the English language. They say it’s a matter of safety.

Another argument in favor of outlawing tests in other languages is concern about lawsuits alleging a state favors one language over another.

Opponents say there are no studies that suggest English proficiency makes better drivers. They also note that legislative efforts do not apply to illiterate residents.

A similar effort could be considered next year at the Tennessee statehouse. A bill in the state Senate would narrow the language options on the state’s written portion of the driver’s license exam, including commercial licenses, from four to one. Tennessee now permits exams to be conducted in English, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.

If approved, the state would mandate all portions of the exam to be administered in English. The bill has been deferred from consideration until lawmakers return to the capitol in 2012.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Pennsylvania, click here.

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