Montana remains a holdout on approving legislation to comply with federal entry-level driver training for commercial vehicle drivers.
The Montana Senate voted down a bill to revise the state’s commercial driver’s license laws to comply with federal driver training requirements. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration put the training requirements into effect in February 2022.
Despite the threat of the state’s commercial driver’s licensing program being decertified and losing some federal funding, the Montana Senate has twice rejected legislation to comply with the federal regulation.
The full Senate rejected SB 47 in a 23-27 vote after debating the bill. On Feb. 6, the Senate rejected an attempt to revive the bill by nearly the same vote tally.
Senate Bill 47 was sponsored by Sen. Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton. The Montana Department of Transportation supported the bill. It would have directed the Montana Department of Justice to establish rules to ensure that the department’s Motor Vehicle Division inquired whether a person seeking their first CDL or upgrading a current CDL has completed a federally required entry-level driver training before giving them a test.
It also would have required checking federal Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse for violations that would disqualify an applicant.
Ramifications for the state
A fiscal note accompanying SB47 noted two letters from FMCSA threatening the state with losing up to 4% of two highway-funding grants, which would increase to 8% in a second year and subsequent years of noncompliance. The amount was estimated at $18.3 million in fiscal year 2023 and up to $36.6 million in subsequent years.
The FMCSA also warned that the state’s CDL program could be decertified if it remained noncompliant on entry-level driver training requirements.
Opponents of the entry-level driver training bill complained about the cost and time required of would-be commercial drivers, especially in rural Montana.
Sen. Carl Glimm, R-Kila, said during the floor debate that he has to have a CDL to drive a truck and trailer he uses to haul hay, KTVH.com reported. He said people in that situation should not have to go through the training. He said also suggested the federal sanctions were a bluff.
“Well, the feds threaten to decertify and withhold funding all the time,” he said.
Great Falls College MSU began a CDL training program a few months ago, KTHV reported. The cost of the program was $2,500 to $3,500. LL