New federal licensing requirements for truck, bus and other commercial drivers could increase the price of a Utah commercial driver's license to as much as $80, a prospect that has industry officials concerned.
The reason a boost from the $10 fee currently charged is even being considered by officials of the Utah State Drivers License Division is the estimated $1.3 million cost of running what will be a tougher testing program.Three new facilities and 38 additional employees will be needed, division director Fred Schwendiman recently told the Legislature's interim committee on transportation and public safety.
While the division has not recommended where the money to pay for the new program will come from, Schwendiman said the fee for a commercial driver's license could be raised to cover the entire cost.
Or, he said, instead of raising the fee only for commercial drivers' licenses, the fee for all types of drivers' licenses could be raised from $10 to $16, which would also raise more than $1 million.
Although the Utah Motor Transportation Association has not taken a position on the new requirements, there is a feeling that making commercial drivers pick up the entire tab is unfair.
"It's a benefit to everyone to have good drivers on the road," said Reed Reeve, the association's executive director. "The public shouldn't resent having their licensing fees go up."
Reeve said that a fee of as much as $80 for a commercial driver's license is "pretty stiff," especially since many truck drivers aren't paid that well to begin with.
He said the association might be willing to support passing along only part of the cost to the state's more than 1 million non-commercial drivers, with the state's 63,000 commercial drivers picking up the rest.
It will be mandatory for the state to document the skills of commercial drivers with extensive written and road tests required by the federal government by 1993.
Because Utah drivers' licenses expire after four years, the state wants to institute the new requirements by next fall so old commercial drivers' licenses can be replaced with the new ones as they come up for renewal.
It costs less than $200,000 annually to test commercial drivers for a driver's license under the current state requirements. The 25-question written test and the behind-the-wheel test take about 30 minutes.
Would-be commercial drivers will be in for at least two hours of testing once the federal standards are effective, including one or more written tests of up to 100 questions each.
Schwendiman has suggested that three new facilities be leased in Salt Lake City, Provo and Ogden to accommodate the written and road tests.