In this edition, we're going to do something a little different than we usually do. Instead of talking about one particular topic or idea, we're going to tell you about a lot of different questions we've received recently. We hope you can use this information to help you now or down the road. Here's the truth.
Question: When I get pulled over for inspection or for a ticket, don't I have the right to ask for a federal marshal?
Answer: No! This is a rumor that floats around the trucking industry and is totally false! The states have the authority to do inspections and give tickets for violations of state law and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR).
So, before you call for the federal marshal to come to the rescue, you might want to know exactly what they do. The job of the U.S. Marshal Service is to protect the federal courts and ensure the effective operation of the judicial system. Specifically, they're responsible for protecting federal judges, transporting federal prisoners, protecting endangered federal witnesses and managing assets seized from criminal enterprises.
Question: Because I'm an owner-operator with my own authority, am I considered a motor carrier and can the feds pull my authority if I get an unsatisfactory safety rating? How do the feds determine what my rating should be?
Answer: Great question! First, if you're an owner-operator with your own authority, you are a motor carrier, for federal purposes. Second, yes, the feds can pull your authority if you get an unsatisfactory rating. Third, the feds use three safety ratings – satisfactory, conditional or unsatisfactory. Some of the things the feds use to determine these ratings are: adequacy of safety management controls; the frequency and severity of regulatory violations; the number and severity of violations of state safety rules; and the frequency of accidents and hazardous materials incidents.
Question: Can my license be suspended without notifying me first? If I receive a notice of suspension, how long do I have to tell my company?
Answer: Yes, your license can be suspended without any prior notification. This can occur several ways: Getting too many points or moving violations, failure to appear in court or comply with a court order, and receiving too many federal serious violation convictions. However, you usually can't be "convicted” of driving under suspension unless you received notice from your home state Department of Motor Vehicles.
To answer your second question, according to section 392.42 of the FMCSR, if your license is suspended or revoked, you must notify your employer before the end of the business day following the day you receive the notice. However, errors occur and it may be correctable prior to having to notify your company. Always contact an attorney for help before doing anything.
Question: Do I have to report to my home state or company that I got a traffic ticket?
Answer: The feds only require you to notify your home state and company when you're convicted, not when you receive the violation. You are not convicted unless you pay the violation or are found guilty by a judge or jury. However, your company policy may require you to report any ticket you receive immediately! But, as far as the feds are concerned, you have 30 days for notification after conviction.
We hope you can use the information in this column to help with every day, real life problems you face on the road. We invite you to send us any questions or comments you may have regarding transportation law to Road Law, 1330 N. Classen Blvd., Suite 215, Oklahoma City, OK 73106; fax to (405) 272-0558 or contact us through our web site at www.roadlaw.net. We look forward to hearing from you.