Posted by : attorney stevelee 22 November 2014

FMCSA Clarifies Its Regulations on English Language Requirements

In order to keep our roads and highways safe, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces strict rules and regulations when it comes to issuing commercial driver licenses (CDLs). One of the rules that has come under intense heat lately has been the English language requirements, which say that commercial drivers must be able to adequately read and speak English.

While an English language requirement is important, as drivers must be able to safely read signs and instructions while driving, it has raised questions in the deaf community. Many people who are hearing impaired are able to communicate in English, but may not be able to speak—and some state licensing officials have been denying these drivers CDLs as a result.

The National Association of the Deaf had requested clarification, and as a result, the FMCSA responded to their concerns in the October 1 Federal Register. The agency will allow exemptions on the English language rule for hearing impaired drivers who do not speak, but are able to read and write in English.

This is not only a victory for the deaf community, but also for the general public. When safe and qualified drivers are being turned away based on miscommunication between federal and state officials, the roads become riskier as we lose out on talented commercial drivers. It is critical that the FMCSA is able to keep their lines of communication open for important matters such as this, as well as retain the flexibility to grant exemptions for deserving drivers.

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