DOT and FMCSA
An agency of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for developing the safety standards and records for commercial truck drivers. Aside from avoiding things like fatigued driving, unsafe driving and safe handling of hazardous materials. There are specific rules truckers have to follow.
Each state can add their own rules and regulations that must be followed, in addition to the ones outlined by FMCSA. The categories that FMCSA does have jurisdiction over would be
- Driver Drug Testing
- Hours of Operation
- Securing Cargo
- Licensing Requirements
- Electronic Logging
- Special Training
- Physical Requirements
Rules for Property Carrying Truck Drivers
The rules for truck drivers are fairly straightforward, but typically unknown by the general public.
Truck drivers are only allowed to drive for a maximum of 11 total hours that can be spent driving within a 14 hour span, only after the driver has spent 10 consecutive hours off duty.
After 8 cumulative hours spent driving, the drivers of each truck must take a thirty minute break, it can be spent doing anything that is not driving, and is not affected by whether they are on duty, off duty, or sleeping. Generally, the time frame given for truck drivers to take breaks was put into place to help reduce driver’s fatigue.
There are weekly limits as well, in 7 consecutive days, a driver may not drive any longer once they’ve spent 60 hours on duty. There must be a break in work; taking a minimum of 34 or more hours off duty in between weeks spent working.
Drivers can extend their 11 hour driving limit by up to 2 whole hours when driving conditions are poor. This can be due to weather, road conditions and other adverse conditions that would affect the driver directly.
Commercial Motor Vehicles
The rules truckers have to follow apply to the driver of a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV). A Commercial Motor Vehicle is defined as:
- A vehicle weighing more than 10,000lbs
- A vehicle that has been made to carry 16 passengers (this excludes the driver) or more in exchange for compensation.
- A vehicle that transports 9 passengers (including the driver) in exchange for compensation
- Has a gross vehicle weight rating OR combination of weight rating that is more than 10,000
- A vehicle used to transport hazardous materials that legally requires placards
Anyone driving a vehicle that meets these requirements is required to follow the FMCSA’s regulations as well as the state’s additional requirements if any.
Commercial Driver’s License
In order to drive any commercial vehicle you will be legally required to hold a Commercial Driver’s License or CDL. The requirements for this license can vary state to state, but in Utah the minimum requirements for obtaining a CDL are the following:
- Must be at least 18 years old.
- You need a Department of Transportation Medical Certificate (or DOT card.)
- Must have held a Class D driver’s license for a full year.
- Complete the self-certification form when you apply
- Complete required training with an authorized provider
- Have proof of identity (Driver’s license or other government issued photo ID)
- Have proof of legal presence (birth certificate or unexpired passport)
- Proof of residence (must currently reside in Utah)
- Provide your Social Security Number
Beyond the minimum requirements, there are also some additional requirements that include fees and testing. You also have to meet certain physical requirements pertaining to your sight and hearing. To get your CDL you have to be considerably healthy with a blood pressure no higher than 160/100, no cardiovascular disease, congestive cardiac failure, or cardiac insufficiency. This is because you carry a huge responsibility when driving large vehicles out on the roadway. These physical requirements are put into place to help reduce high risk trucking accidents.
Driver’s Daily Log
Rules for truckers can seem like a bit more work to keep track of than your average road trip that has few limitations. As we already know; truck drivers have a limited amount of hours they can drive in one session. They also have to record their drive time in written or electronic form. This is called the Driver’s Daily Log. This logbook should contain all 24 hours of every day, even when you have a day off. You also have to list the truck or tractor number you’re driving, name of the carrier, main office address, name of co-driver, time base used (this is important if you cross into other time zones), remarks, total hours, shipping document numbers, name of shipper and commodity as well as your signature.
The government employs authorized inspectors which are permitted to check your logs at any given time. Inspectors will review your logbook to ensure you have not violated the hours of service regulations put forth by the FMCSA. If there are any violations, this can result in a hefty fine, and/or being placed out of service.
Ultimately, it's important to note that these rules truck drivers have to follow are all put in place to keep truck drivers safe! Road safety is a top priority for everyone. Considering that car accidents are the second highest leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. It never hurts to be extra cautious.