The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is denying reports that a severe backlog in processing applications for commercial driver licenses is affecting the State’s economy; but State Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, says “The commercial side of the DMV is so backlogged that if you finished your truck driving courses today, you’d have to wait 56 days for an appointment to take your driver’s license test.”
Assemblyman Patterson is not the only person claiming that the DMV’s backlog is significant. The City of Fresno reports the recent hiring of 20 new bus drivers who can’t get on the road because of processing delays at the DMV. Also, a program run by the West Hills Community College to train new truck drivers has employers ready to put graduates to work, but the DMV’s backlog can’t accommodate their applications for a commercial driver license for eight or nine weeks.
Truck driving instructor Richard Wills said, “This is their opportunity to get out of poverty and take care of their families and get off the welfare rolls, and basically—and it’s been working really well, but now the thing is climbing so fast, the waiting time—they get discouraged and they quit.”
The difference of opinion is so great that it has sparked a war of words between the DMV and Assemblyman Patterson’s office. The DMV recently stated that its field office in Fresno is able to accommodate appointments for commercial driver applicants within six days. This completely contradicts information from Assemblyman Patterson’s office who quoted wait times of eight-weeks. And evidently, it isn’t only Assemblyman Patterson who is frustrated with the apparent delays.
The director of the Fresno Department of Transportation noted that his department was forced to pay the wages and overnight lodging for 15 new drivers to send the group to a field office in Sacramento because it was reported that wait times there were far less. Director Brian Marshall said “In November 2016, the delays were so long that the department sent drivers to Sacramento.” Despite that effort and expense, however, only 2 of the 15 drivers were able to be tested.
Concerned about the evident impact on the state economy, Assemblyman Freddie Rodriquez, D-Pomona, has authored new legislation that would permit third-party vendors, authorized by the DMV, to provide testing of commercial applicants. Co-Authored by Assemblyman Patterson, the legislation describes a nationwide truck-driving shortage which has prompted 39 other states to allow testing by third parties.
Assemblyman Patterson said, “There are 30,000 unfilled trucking driving jobs in this state. People are begging to get their licenses so they can go to work. We need to do everything we can to make sure that happens.”
Attempting to quell a rising public outcry, the DMV issued a statement. “The DMV noticed a higher volume of Commercial Driver License applicants requesting appointments to take the behind-the-wheel skills test. As a result, on January 7, 2017, the DMV began offering Saturday appointments only to individuals wanting to take this specific exam at nine locations across the state.”
In the meantime, critics of the DMV argue that there are clear taxpayer implications in play. State agencies and private companies are being forced to pay drivers who can’t work while they wait to get through the DMV’s process.