Every commercial driver knows there are a multitude of laws and regulations they and motor carriers must comply with.
While most state laws such as speed limits and weight limitations are commonly understood, many of the regulations may be less well known. Regulations constantly change, and there is almost never a new sign posted by the roadside letting you know when a change occurs.
To further complicate matters, there are “gray areas” in the regulations that leave you wide open to the interpretation of the cop at the roadside. There is at least some semblance of uniformity, however, due to the fact that states are generally required to adopt safety regulations that are compatible with the federal rules.
As OOIDA Truck Safety Month approaches, it would be a good idea to pick up a current copy of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to both refresh your memory of the longstanding rules and familiarize yourself with recent changes.
The sections most relevant to your daily travels may include: part 382, Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing; part 383, Commercial Driver’s License Standards/Requirements and Penalties; part 390, General; part 391, Qualifications of Drivers; part 392, Driving of Commercial Motor Vehicles; part 393, Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; part 395, Hours of Service of Drivers; part 396, Inspection, Repair and Maintenance; and if applicable, part 397, Transportation of Hazardous Materials/Driving and Parking Rules.
Possibly the area most misunderstood or overlooked by drivers is tucked away in the definitions section of the hours-of-service rules. Even the “old hands” are often surprised to learn just how all encompassing the “on-duty time” definition really is. Following is the on-duty time requirement contained in § 395.2 and a smattering of examples to help you better understand how to comply:
On-duty time means all time from the time a driver begins to work or is required to be in readiness to work until the time the driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work. On-duty time shall include:
1. All time at a plant, terminal, facility, or other property of a motor carrier or shipper, or on any public property, waiting to be dispatched.
2. All time inspecting, servicing, or conditioning any commercial motor vehicle at any time;
Yep, parked in your own driveway on a sunny Sunday afternoon changing oil or just polishing your wheels — you’re “on-duty, not driving.”
3. All driving time as defined in the term driving time;
Driving is driving, right? Not always. Say you’re stuck in traffic at a dead stop waiting for a wreck to be cleared. You’re “on-duty, driving” while in the driver’s seat. Operate a dump or trash truck? If you’re operating the auxiliary controls from the driver’s seat, you’re “on-duty, driving” while performing the auxiliary function.
4. All time, other than driving time, in or upon any commercial motor vehicle except time spent resting in a sleeper berth;
Running team and just sitting in the jump seat watching the scenery go by? You’re “on-duty, not driving.”
5. All time loading or unloading a commercial motor vehicle, supervising, or assisting in the loading or unloading, attending a commercial motor vehicle being loaded or unloaded, remaining in readiness to operate the commercial motor vehicle, or in giving or receiving receipts for shipments loaded or unloaded;
Let’s say you bump a receiver’s dock after being on-duty for 68 hours in an eight-day period. You’re “on-duty” even if the receiver is unloading. What do you do if it takes more than two hours? The rules say you can’t drive after exceeding 70 hours in eight days. But can you use the vehicle as a personal conveyance to go to a place of rest afterward? Here’s a prime example of a gray area — one that could get you a ticket and a costly out-of-service order. There’s only one way to be certain you’re legal. Unless you intend to, and can, leave your vehicle at the receiver’s facility, all you can do is stop unloading and make your way to a suitable place of rest while you still have time to drive.
6. All time repairing, obtaining assistance, or remaining in attendance upon a disabled commercial motor vehicle;
7. All time spent providing a breath sample or urine specimen, including travel time to and from the collection site, in order to comply with the random, reasonable suspicion, post-accident, or follow-up testing required by part 382 of this subchapter when directed by a motor carrier;
8. Performing any other work in the capacity, employ, or service of a motor carrier;
Working the dock, keeping the books, running parts in the pickup? You’re “on-duty, not driving.” Running parts in a vehicle with a GVWR over 10,000 pounds? You’re “on-duty, driving,” even if you’re not being paid.
9. Performing any compensated work for a person who is not a motor carrier.
Moonlighting on the weekend for a little extra cash? Even if the job has absolutely nothing to do with trucking you are “on-duty, not driving.”
— by Rick Craig, OOIDA director of regulatory affair