Trucking companies will have to send drivers out of Plymouth County to test for new commercial driver's licenses after Aug. 1.
The county is unable meet new federal requirements from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to provide the skills portion of the commercial driver's license (CDL) testing.
"We needed a 240-by-130 foot testing area," said Linda Dobson, county treasurer, who is in charge of driver's licensing. "That is a huge piece of cement."
She told the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors Tuesday skills testing for new CDLs will end Aug. 1 because an adequate testing area could not be located.
"We can still do renewals," Dobson said.
Keri Borchers, the county's driver's license deputy, added that people will be unable to do the physical skills portion for CDLs, but can still do the written test on the computer.
"We can still issue a permit for practice driving with a licensed CDL driver," she said. "We can do everything up to the point of actually coming and doing the pre-trip skills and the drive."
Dobson noted that means most people will choose to obtain CDLs elsewhere, but she doesn't see losing that service as detrimental to the county.
"The numbers have shown CDL licensing is falling," she said. "We used to license up to 100 a year, now we're down to a little over 50 a year."
Plymouth County receives $7 for each driver's license issued including CDLs, motorcycles and cars, Dobson said.
Borchers said at least half of the 56 CDLs issued in the 2011-12 fiscal year were to people living outside of Plymouth County.
"Most of them that have been coming in have just been adding something to their CDL," she said. "We've not really been issuing full-fledged Class A CDLs."
The county's elimination of CDL skills testing won't have any affect on those who hold chauffeur licenses to drive trucks in their farming operations.
Chauffeur licenses are issued to people driving straight trucks meeting specific weight limits or semi-tractors that are used only for farming, Borchers said.
"Steve still can take those out on a drive because they don't have do the skills and pre-trip inspection," Borchers said, referring to Steve Beeck, the county's driver's license examiner.
Dobson said she sees discontinuing to issue new CDLs as a positive because it will allow more time for Beeck to do car and motorcycle drives for testing.
"I think it will benefit the county tremendously," Dobson said. "We've had to send people from the county to other places for car drives because of CDLs."
In the past the driver's license examiner was able to do 200 car drives a day but that fell to 100 with the addition of CDL testing several years ago, she said.
"We cannot do everything in the two days so then we send these people to other counties," Dobson explained. "Without the new CDL licensing, we can service more of our county residents that way."
The driver's license department is open Wednesdays and Thursdays in Plymouth County.
Eliminating new CDL licensing will also make room for an additional motorcycle testing time on Thursday, which is when CDL skills tests are done, Borchers said.
Currently motorcycle testing is done at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays.
"We will probably do one Thursday morning so we can hit the people who can't come in the afternoon," Borchers said.
Beeck said he can see both sides of the county's decision to stop issuing new CDLs.
"I hate to see us lose the CDLs but we'll be able to take care of more customers with the additional motorcycle testing and drive testing," Beeck said. "As far as county services, we'll be able to provide better services for the average driver."
In addition to Plymouth County, Beeck said he will no longer be doing CDL skills testing in Cherokee County because it will no longer offer the service come July 1.
Cherokee, like Plymouth, was unable to comply with a skills testing area large enough to meet the new federal requirements, Dobson said.
She explained that counties were supposed to be in compliance with the new federal regulations by June 1.
"They are continuing to let us test CDLs but they won't give us a final date when we absolutely have to be compliant with federal regulations," Dobson said.
She added that Beeck has not been trained for the new regulations because it wasn't prudent to send him to training when Plymouth County did not have a large enough CDL testing area.
County Supervisor Chairman Jim Henrich asked whether there are any neighboring counties that are able to provide CDL testing under the new regulations.
Borchers said she hadn't heard specifically about Sioux County while Dobson said there could be a suitable area in Sheldon.
"I guess the reason I'm asking is, we're not doing it; I'm wondering how many counties are," Henrich said. "How are you going to make them all do it, if they don't have a place?"
Dobson said people seeking new CDLs could go to the state driver's license station in Sioux City, but she had heard it didn't yet have a proper testing area.
She said even though Plymouth County can no longer issue new CDLs, it is something that could be resumed in the future if testing requirements can be met.
But for now, the local driver's license department will be focusing on increasing the services it can provide, Dobson said.
"Steve's motorcycle and car testing will increase," she said. "We're seeing that we're going to be helping more of our residents."