General Driver Qualification Regulations
To qualify as a truck driver, there are certain requirements you need to meet under the law, including the following;
- You are at least 21 years old
- You can read and speak the English language sufficiently enough to
- communicate with the general public
- understand traffic signs and signals
- respond to official inquiries
- make entries on reports and records
- You have a valid commercial driver’s license
- You can safely operate the vehicle (in this case, a truck)
- You have passed a valid road test or have an equivalent certificate
- You are not disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle under any other law.
Trucking companies must ensure that their drivers have the above qualifications before they can go on trips. Otherwise, they could be liable if a truck accident occurs or anything goes wrong.
Hours of Service Regulations
This is one of the most notable regulations laid down by the FMCSA, and it specifies maximum work hours and restricts the driving time for truckers and drivers of other commercial vehicles.
Under these rules, drivers of commercial motor vehicles, including trucks, can only drive for a maximum of 11 hours during a 14-hour window after observing ten consecutive off-duty hours. Also, drivers who have driven for a cumulative 8 hours are required to take a break for at least thirty minutes before they continue their trip.
The rules also restrict a driver’s weekly working hours to a maximum of 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days. The calculation for consecutive working restarts if the driver takes 34 or more consecutive hours off duty during the week.
The hours of service rules were introduced to protect the public and avoid truck accidents due to driver fatigue. As a trucker or trucking company complying with them is for your benefit as well. However, if you’re struggling with the stipulated work duration, there are some exceptions that you could take advantage of (such as the short-haul and adverse driving conditions exceptions). You can consult an experienced trucking law attorney to determine if any of the exceptions apply to your case.
Federal Regulations on Alcohol Testing
A moving truck in the hands of an intoxicated person can be deadly. Therefore, truck drivers need to always be sober while they drive. To ensure this, they are required by law to undergo drug and alcohol testing in certain circumstances, including;
- Where they are under reasonable suspicion of intoxication
- After accidents involving fatalities
- Before their first trip (for new hires)
- Before allowing a driver who tested positive for drugs or alcohol to return to work
- If a citation is issued to the driver after an accident and the accident caused immediate bodily injury requiring significant medical treatment or disabling damage to one or more vehicles.
The obligations created by these rules are directed toward employers. So, if you own a trucking company, it is up to you to ensure that your truck drivers are tested at the right time and that they do not drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Otherwise, you could face serious FMCSA sanctions.
Physical Fitness Requirements and Examinations
Commercial motor vehicles, including truckers, need to meet certain physical fitness requirements before they can drive under the law. As such, any person with any of the following health conditions is not allowed to drive a commercial vehicle;
- Loss of a foot, hand, leg, or arm
- A hand or finger impairment that interferes with grasping movements
- Diabetes mellitus that requires insulin to control (subject to certain exceptions).
The rules mention other medical conditions that could disqualify a person from working as a truck driver. If you have further concerns about this, you can consult an experienced trucking law attorney to determine whether a specific illness can disqualify you or your driver.
The FMSCA requires potential drivers to first get tested for these conditions by an approved medical examiner, who then issues a certificate to those who pass the test. The certificate is valid for only two years. Therefore, all drivers need to be tested every two years to ensure they continue to meet the physical requirements.
In cases where the driver suffers from a health condition that needs to be monitored, the medical examiner may issue a certificate valid for a shorter period until the particular health challenge is under control.
Drivers are required to keep their certificates close by while operating or driving a truck.
Hazardous Materials Transportation
The Department of Transport’s regulations on the transportation of hazardous materials applies to all motor carriers or individuals employed by a motor carrier to supervise or operate vehicles that carry hazardous materials.
As a general rule, drivers of trucks carrying hazardous material cannot leave the vehicle unattended. This is particularly so where the vehicle is on a public highway or street. Also, vehicles containing substances like explosive materials cannot park in or close to public places. They can only be parked on private property with the property owner’s informed consent.
If the hazardous materials include explosives, the trucking company must ensure that each driver is given certain safety information/documentation, including the following;
- A copy of the legal rules on the transportation of hazardous materials
- Written instructions on the procedure to be followed in the event of an accident or delay
- A route plan in compliance with Title 49 § 397.67 of the federal regulations.
Every driver transporting hazardous materials must adhere to the local and state laws governing driving and parking wherever they are. However, where local laws vary from the DOT regulations for the said vehicle and the DOT regulations impose a higher level of responsibility, the latter should be followed strictly.