A Bright Future for the Tennessee CDL Division
Advancements in technology, training, and customer service to benefit Tennesseans
Serve, Secure, Protect
Official reports by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) show that in 2015, freight shipped by trucks in the United States weighed a staggering 11,396 million tons, totaling over 64% of the domestic shipping industry. With such a booming industry, the demand to license and maintain commercial drivers is extremely high. In Tennessee, these demands are met with the help of the Commercial Driver License (CDL) Division, a branch within the Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security. The CDL Division issues, regulates, and maintains licenses for commercial drivers in the state of Tennessee. Additionally, CDL endorsements for school bus drivers and the special transportation of hazardous materials among others fall under the scope of the Division and are required for the daily functions across the state of Tennessee. Without drivers for the thousands of Commercial
“I strive to provide excellent customer service to the citizens of Tennessee.”
Motor Vehicles needed on our roads, the state would come to an economic and operational stand still. However, all of this is immaterial without the assurance that CDL holders are provided the knowledge and resources to keep roads and other drivers safe. In light of this need in public service, the Commercial Driver License Division is currently undertaking huge strides to better fulfill the Division’s mission statement, “To serve, secure, and protect the people of Tennessee.”
While the cornerstone of this service to Tennesseans is ensuring that licenses to operate the deadliest vehicles on the road are in the right hands, there is a large component of customer service involved as well. Efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to keeping medical records updated and license testing on schedule to keep qualified drivers on the road. The CDL Division is thrilled to announce the implementation of a new customer service software called Zendesk. This will drastically increase customer satisfaction by allowing individuals to create a profile, upload documents, and track their help desk tickets. Additionally, increased automation in the software allows agents to spend less time on paperwork and more time with customers. “The unsolicited measures taken by the CDL Division towards meeting the needs of our truck drivers is our number one priority,” said Lisa Ewing, Special Projects Manager. This technological progress is keeping the Division on the cutting edge of both customer and public service.
Highways for Heroes
Tom Smith is happy to work in the CDL Division, which is a relief since he has served Tennessee in his position as Grants Manager for over nine years. “I strive to provide excellent customer service to the citizens of Tennessee,” said Smith. It is evident he strives to serve all Tennesseans through his leading hand in the 2015-2017 Highways for Heroes project. This program joined forces with military and transportation-related businesses and the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs (TDVA) to prepare service men and women and National Guard Reserve members after their service for employment in the transportation industry. Meeting the demands of the industry along with promoting our great service men and women in the process was a great accomplishment.
Positive Training Initiative
The consistent demand for commercially licensed drivers is so great that the private sector provides a great opportunity to meet public needs. Third party partnerships are a huge focus for the Division and they are proud to work with so many great organizations and individuals. To fulfill their promise to keep the public safe, we are implementing new training programs spearheaded by Lisa Ewing and Trey Nelson to provide all CDL testing examiners with the necessary tools to administer CDL tests properly and guarantee CDLs are only issued after all federal and state requirements are completed. Ewing and Nelson’s new mentorship program for CDL test examiners is centered on their initiative to “set a tone for a positive learning environment for our CDL examiners.” They work alongside a well-rounded CDL training team to introduce a broad array of content and hands-on experience to produce a better product within new CDL examiners. When asked about the customer service from the Division, Springfield Branch Manager Kimberly Dudley explained, “We are absolutely confident we will have any questions answered by the staff in this division.” We are pleased to have such a knowledgeable staff and it seems as though their customer service initiatives can only improve the positive feedback they have been receiving.
Saving Money, Increasing Efficiency
Tennessee tax payers that never see this world of commercial driver licenses and transportation can be at peace knowing that the CDL Division works tirelessly to properly allocate federal and state funds. Not surprisingly, the technology required to conduct CDL testing is expensive and quickly becomes obsolete. In response, the CDL Division has taken on a project to replace all CDL testing tablets with a new provider to save over $380,000 of state funds in the first five years. This move is also notable because the improved technology replacement cost is significantly less than the current tablet solution for third party testing organizations.
In applying for federal grant funds, the CDL Division holds public safety as the top priority. With a new fiscal year quickly approaching, we are in the process of requesting funds for new positions that will ensure proper safety audits of all CDL testing centers and prevent CDL fraud. “While the impact of driver license regulation often goes unnoticed, it is vitally important,” says CDL Division Special Program Manager Jonathon Roach. His data-driven focus is pushing the envelope in the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security in a good way. In the short time since February of 2018, compared to the previous three years combined, we have seen a 3,000% increase in task resolution efficiency in Roach’s group.
Transparency and Progress
Internally, we are laying ground work for a new Learning Management System (LMS) and training programs for our employees. Investing in and properly training each individual is incredibly important to establish the servant leadership style that is the focal point of the Division’s public outreach initiatives. Safety Program Manager Ryan Ennis is personally visiting Driver Service Centers across the state to connect with employees. Regional meetings will also take place with third party testing partners. These opportunities to communicate concerns and share new ideas builds trust and creates transparency. Sam Walker, who is orchestrating these visits explains, “Transparency benefits our customers so they can be assured that we have their best interest and success in mind. It is the best way to ensure that our programs produce qualified CDL holders.”
"Transparency benefits our customers so they can be assured that we have their best interest and success in mind, and it is the best way to ensure that our programs produce qualified CDL holders.”
We are proud of the progress that is being made right now, but this is just the beginning. In only a few months, the Division has taken leaps and bounds into the twenty-first century by implementing great technological advancements. At the same time, their citizen and customer based approach to everything from veteran outreach to CDL examiner training will serve Tennesseans for years to come. The Tennessee CDL Division has an unwavering dedication to serving the needs of the public, providing excellent customer services, and keeping our roads and families safe.