Trucking Compliance Rules You Probably Aren’t Aware Of

Driving a truck is a tough job – drivers work long hours under tight deadlines and face many challenges on the road including traffic, bad weather, and distracted or aggressive drivers. Their work is made even more difficult by the myriad of state and federal regulations they, as well as the companies they drive for, must adhere to during their haul.

Trucking is a highly-regulated industry. The federal Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hold the primary responsibility for creating and enforcing the regulations that govern the trucking industry. And even though the rules have merit and are in place to keep people safe, it can be difficult for drivers and companies to fully understand and stay up to date on current regulations.

Here are some of the rules and their nuances that can be tricky to understand, or that you may not be aware of:

Current CDL license This seems like a no-brainer – drivers must have a current commercial drivers’ license in good standing to legally operate their vehicle. The challenge is that drivers could have their license suspended for non-safety violations without their knowledge. The DOT would send notifications of a license suspension to a driver’s home address, and they could easily be missed if a driver is traveling or if the driver fails to notify the carrier they drive for. The most common cause of a CDL driver having his or her license suspended is because of missed or late child support payments.    

Hours of Service Most drivers and companies are aware of the limits drivers must adhere to in terms of the number of consecutive hours they are able to drive. However, there are some nuances to the regulations that can be difficult to understand. Property-carrying drivers can drive no longer than 11 consecutive hours within any 14-hour window then they must spend 10 consecutive hours off duty. There is no exception to this rule, not even to accommodate time to stop for gas or use the bathroom. Drivers do have the option to utilize a seven/three or eight/two hour split – which means a driver can spend seven or eight hours of their 10 hour break time in the sleeping berth of their cab and the remaining time off duty or in the sleeping berth – but it is important to know that this only pauses the 14 hours, it doesn’t reset or extend it.

Resources Every truck must have certain resources related to their ELD (electronic logging device) in the cab, and the driver must be prepared to hand an officer or DOT inspector at any time:

  • The ELD user manual
  • An instruction sheet on data transfer
  • An instruction sheet on what to do in the event of an ELD malfunction
  • At least eight days of blank logs

Vehicle maintenance These are some areas that can easily be missed when preparing for travel:

  • Trailers manufactured after March 1st, 1998, must have exterior anti-lock braking system (ABS) lamps, so they must be checked for working condition before travel.
  • Every truck must have one or two fire extinguishers that are secured to the inside of the truck’s cab with an operable gauge and a reading in the green.
  • If your vehicle operates with fuses, it must also have at least one spare for each type and size of fuse needed.
  • Each vehicle must have at least three bidirectional emergency reflective triangles, six fuses, or three liquid burning flares in case the driver must come to a complete stop in the middle of a traffic lane or on the shoulder.
  • Vehicle hubcaps and tire rims must be free of rust and cracks.

Weigh stations Drivers may fail to pull into a weigh station because they are unsure if it is open, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. Drivers won’t receive a violation for stopping at a closed station but will if they pass a station they mistakenly think is closed.

Medical clearance Drivers must be medically cleared to operate their vehicles. People with diabetes can operate a commercial vehicle, but they must have the approval of an FMCSA-certified medical examiner to do so, and that approval must be renewed yearly. Drivers must also pass a vision exam, but it may be possible for them to be evaluated based on the vision in the stronger of their eyes.

Documentation Commercial vehicle operators must always carry a variety of documentation with them – including proof of their medical clearances and details on their vehicle and the property they carry. If they are subjected to inspection and do not have the required paperwork, they have 48 hours to provide it to the FMCSA.

If a driver or their company fails to adhere to regulations, they run the risk of steep monetary fines, increased insurance premiums, loss of licenses and/or certifications, and/or legal ramifications, or they could even lose their ability to operate entirely.

The FMCSA evaluates drivers and trucking companies based on their safety records and assigns a safety score – it is critical for companies and their vehicle operators to be aware of these ratings.

At SWZ, we are true experts when it comes to insuring transportation risks. We offer a free SCORE Report to help you understand your safety score, identify safety issues, and learn how to resolve them. To learn more about how we can help you manage your risks and understand where you stand with the FMCSA, please contact us today.

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