Do Truckers & Other CDL Holders Have to Speak English?June 30, 2020
Yes, Texas and federal trucking regulations require that commercial drivers’ license (CDL) holders who are doing interstate driving speak and read the English language. Specifically, their English language skills must be proficient enough to:
- Communicate with the general public
- Read traffic signs and signals with English text
- Complete entries, reports, and recordkeeping, as needed
- Respond to official investigations or inquiries, like those conducted by law enforcement and/or regulators after truck wrecks
In contrast, CDL holders who live in Texas, who are at least 18 years old, and who only drive within the state are not required to be proficient in the English language, according to Texas law.
Getting a CDL: When English Is Required
While Texas law doesn’t require intrastate commercial drivers to speak English—and despite the fact that CDL written test are available in English and Spanish—getting a CDL will involve at least a working knowledge of the English language.
That’s because, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS):
- Interpreters are not permitted during CDL skills tests.
- CDL test takers will have to communicate in English with the examiner, listening and responding to verbal instructions or commands in English.
- Both test takers and examiners are required to communicate in English only. They are prohibited from communicating in any other language during the administration of the skills test.
When Interstate CDL Holders Don’t Have to Speak English
- Bring or request an interpreter for their CDL test: If these drivers are unable to bring an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter with them, they must request an interpreter at least four days before they plan to take their test. These requests can be made online with a local Driver License Office.
- Have a special exemption from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA): Specifically, they must be exempt from the hearing standard under 49 CFR 391.41(b)(11).
- Be able to communicate in English: Reading and writing in English are required language skills these drivers. Just like other interstate commercial truckers, hearing-impaired drivers must be able to read and write in English sufficiently to communicate with the public, understand traffic signs, maintain records, and respond to official inquiries.
When Truckers Who Don’t Speak English Are Involved in Wrecks
Clearly, commercial truckers need at least a basic level of English language skills to safely operate vehicles on the roads and comply with trucking regulations. Beyond that, however, these skills can also be important when it comes to liability for 18-wheeler accidents.
If non-exempt truckers don’t have the required English language skills:
- They can be violating federal and/or state trucking regulations
- They can be opening themselves up to liability for accidents they were not necessarily at fault for.