Making The Connection: Felony Offenses
and Commercial Driver License Sanctions
State prosecutors are expected to master state code, evidentiary rules, technical evidence and court procedures. Many learn from more experienced attorneys and adopt practices whose origins are shrouded in mystery and whose continuation is justified by a curt "because this is the way we have always done it." Operating within these conditions, it is no surprise that some relatively obscure, albeit mandatory, statutes are rarely, if ever, enforced. This article from the National Traffic Law Center explores the mandatory commercial driver's license (CDL) disqualification rule, which has been adopted by most states but is largely unknown by most prosecutors and courts, and provides suggestions on how to ensure traffic safety through improved compliance.
State Specific Commercial Driver's Licensing Webcasts
The NJC will be offering state specific Commercial Driver's Licensing webcasts for all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia.
Did you know?
- Your state has to adhere to its own commercial driver's licensing laws and commercial motor vehicle regulations based on federal regulations.
- Federal highway funds for your state are tied to the adherence of these laws; however, most traffic judges are unaware of all the nuances regarding your state's CDL/CMV laws.
- In 2011, 3,852 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes on our nation's highways, resulting in 4,018 fatalities.
- A pickup truck pulling a back hoe is considered a commercial vehicle requiring a CDL license if the gross combination weight or gross combination weight rating of both units exceeds 26,000 lbs. and the towed unit exceeds 10,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight or gross vehicle weight rating.
- School buses, church buses, motor coaches and transit buses that are designed to carry 16 persons are considered commercial vehicles requiring the drivers to have CDL licenses.
- Judges handling traffic cases have a legal responsibility to report "convictions" of traffic violations within 10 days of conviction. What constitutes a "conviction" under federal regulations?
Federal law prohibits the "masking" of CDL violations. Don't know what "masking" is? This webcast will tell you! NJC's state-specific webcast will provide you with guidance on handling these technical and troublesome cases. Please join us for your state’s live webcast. If NJC has already presented your state’s webcast, you may watch a recording of the webcast by registering. To register for your state-specific webcast, please click here and select your state.
Judge’s CDL List Serve Launched
This list serve is intended to facilitate a national exchange among judges, administrative law judges, and hearing officers handling commercial driver license and commercial vehicle cases and issues. It is operated as a free service by The National Judicial College and sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
FMCSA Distracted Driving
What You Need to Know
New texting and mobile phone restrictions for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers
The FMCSA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) have published rules specifically prohibiting interstate truck and bus drivers and drivers who transport placardable quantities of hazardous materials from texting or using hand-held mobile phones while operating their vehicles. The joint rules are the latest actions by the U.S. Department of Transportation to end distracted driving. Violations can result in fines and/or disqualifications and will impact a motor carrier’s and/or driver’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) results.
No texting while driving
CMV drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. So what qualifies as texting? Texting means manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device. This includes, but is not limited to, short message service, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a Web page, or pressing more than a single button to initiate or terminate a voice communication using a mobile phone. (Click here for final rule)
Do not type or read a text message while driving a CMV!
Use of mobile phones is restricted for CMV drivers
This ruling restricts a CMV driver from reaching for or holding a mobile phone to conduct a voice communication, as well as dialing by pressing more than a single button. CMV drivers who use a mobile phone while driving can only operate a hands-free phone located in close proximity. In short, the rule prohibits unsafelyreaching for a device, holding a mobile phone, or pressing multiple buttons. (Click here for final rule)
How can drivers use a mobile phone and still obey the rules?
• Locate the mobile phone so it is operable by the driver while restrained by properly adjusted safety belts.
• Utilize an earpiece or the speaker phone function.
• Use voice-activated or one-button touch features to initiate, answer, or terminate a call.
What happens if a driver is caught using a hand-held phone or texting while driving?
The rules impose sanctions for driver offenses, including civil penalties up to $2,750 and disqualification for multiple offenses. Motor carriers are also prohibited from requiring or allowing their drivers to text or use a hand-held mobile phone while driving and may be subject to civil penalties up to $11,000. Violations will impact SMS results. Texting and calling on a hand-held phone carry the worst possible violation severity weights against a driver’s results!
What are the risks?
Besides penalties and possible disqualification, recent research shows that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) are 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who text while driving than for those who do not. Texting drivers took their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, this equates to a driver traveling the approximate length of a football field — without looking at the roadway! For CMV drivers who dial a mobile phone while driving, the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event are six times greaterthan for those who do not. Why take chances?
BOTTOM LINE: Using a hand held device while driving is a serious traffic violation that could result in a disqualification.
No call, no text, no ticket!
Q: “What documents does a foreign CMV driver need to drive legally in the United States? Is an international driver’s license honored in the United States?
Danielle Boire, Napierville, Quebec, Canada”
A: "An international driver’s license is not really a driver’s license. It is a translation of the information on the driver’s foreign license to the language of the country the foreign driver intends to drive. It aids in roadside enforcement, but it must be accompanied by the driver’s foreign license. By treaty, this is only valid for non-commercial driving.
A foreign driver from other than Mexico or Canada which have reciprocity agreements with the U.S., must obtain a non-domiciled CDL from a U.S. State that issues them in order to operate a commercial motor vehicle that requires a CDL in the U.S..”
Robert (Bob) Redmond
Senior Transportation Specialist
Commercial Driver's License Division
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
(202) 366-5014 (Fax) 366-7908
"I have attended many training programs over the years. Of those, the CDL course has given me more information that I did not know before the course and that I use routinely in my work than any other I can think of. I really do appreciate having the opportunity to attend."
– Doug Robinson
U.S. Department of Transportation Raises the Bar for Safety with National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced an important new safety rule that requires healthcare professionals who perform medical examinations for interstate truck and bus drivers to be trained, tested and certified on the specific physical qualifications that affect a driver's ability to safely operate the vehicle. The final rule also creates a national online database of medical examiners who have completed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) certification process. More...
U.S. Department of Transportation Orders Reliable Transportation Services, Inc. to Shut Down
The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has ordered Utah-based Reliable Transportation Services, Inc. to immediately cease all transportation services, declaring the trucking company and its principal, Jay Zachary Barber, an imminent hazard to public safety. More...
CDL in the Administrative Hearing, September 21, 2011
This free webcast was presented by the Hon. Toni Boone (NV). She explains the various sentencing parameters available to the ALJ when confronted with a CDL holder defendant.
FMCSA REITERATES ITS BAN ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA
FMCSA continues to respond to questions regarding the spread of acceptance of the use of medical marijuana through the United States. On October 22, 2009, The Department of Transportation issued the following statement:
The Department of Transportation's Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulation - 49 CFR Part 40, at 40.151(e) - does not authorize "medical marijuana" under a state law to be a valid medical explanation for a transportation employee's positive drug test result.
Specifically, Section § 40.151 states:
Q. What are Medical Review Officers (MROs) prohibited from doing as part of the verification process?
A. As an MRO, you are prohibited from doing the following as part of the verification process:
(e) You must not verify a test negative based on information that a physician recommended that the employee use a drug listed in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. (e.g., under a state law that purports to authorize such recommendations, such as the "medical marijuana" laws that some states have adopted.)
All State administrative and enforcement personnel are reminded that under no circumstances can a CMV driver operate a CMV while using marijuana, impaired by marijuana, or have marijuana in their system.
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