By Charlie Morasch, staff writer
Rod Baillie remembers pulling out of his Sparks, NV, driveway Labor Day weekend.
He and Karen Baillie, both OOIDA members, would team-drive their way across the country and return home in late September. That way, Rod’s CDL could be renewed before it expired on Oct. 2.
When the Baillies got home and checked their mail, they found a rude awakening – a Nevada DOT postcard saying Rod’s CDL was suspended.
“It’s been a nightmare,” Rod said. “If it weren’t for my wife, we’d be out of business.”
The case highlights a key clerical discrepancy that could ruin business for thousands of truckers who obtain hazardous material endorsements that expire before their CDLs are required to be renewed.
Rod’s hazmat endorsement background check expired in September. Because he hadn’t hauled hazmat for years, Rod decided not to renew the HME. He would renew his CDL in early October.
“If I hadn’t been renewing my license, I would have stayed out for 60 days,” Baillie said. “It’s cheaper and easier on us to go out for 60, come back, and take a week off.”
In the process of suspending Baillie’s CDL, the Nevada DMV may have violated federal transportation regulations.
In its letter notifying Rod Baillie of the suspension, Nevada cited a state administrative code that referred back to federal regulations spelled out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Under FMCSR 383.141, states are required to notify CDL/HME-holders at least 60 days before the expiration date of either the license or the endorsement that the “individual must pass a Transportation Security Administration security threat assessment process.”
Baillie said his notification has an Aug. 28 postmark, meaning it was mailed no more than 30 days before his HME expired. A second letter regarding the suspension was postmarked Sept. 20.
Under 383.51, a driver can be disqualified for “driving a commercial motor vehicle without the proper class of CDL and/or endorsements for the specific vehicle group being operated or for the passengers or type of cargo being transported.”
Baillie, however, was not hauling hazmat.
Baillie passed a TSA background check in early 2009 in order to obtain his Transportation Worker Identification Credential. That background check is good until 2013.
Joe Rajkovacz, OOIDA director of regulatory affairs, said Baillie’s CDL should never have been suspended.
“This is just another example of a state overzealously misinterpreting federal regulations,” Rajkovacz said. “There is no federal requirement to suspend a CDL simply because the driver decided not to renew his HME.”
States shouldn’t go beyond the authority of federal transportation regulations, Rajkovacz said.
“There has been a dramatic drop in veteran drivers securing a Hazardous Materials Endorsement because of the cost and hassles involved,” Rajkovacz said. “This kind of policy will only make drivers think twice about securing the endorsement, further exacerbating a growing shortage of drivers willing to haul hazardous materials.”
Tom Jacobs, a spokesman with the Nevada DMV, said drivers who want to drop a hazmat endorsement from their CDL need to come in to a DMV office and obtain a new license.
“That’s the driver’s choice if they don’t want it on there,” Jacobs said.
Until he could appeal in November, Rod remained in the passenger seat of the family’s 2005 Freightliner Columbia.
Without Karen’s trucking career and the Baillie’s truck already being paid off, Rod’s CDL being suspended might have sunk their business.
Baillie said he hopes his CDL being suspended won’t hurt his permanent record.
“Nevada DMV has my email address; I use it for IFTA. I wish they’d have emailed me,” he said.
“Hopefully other truckers don’t get caught up in this.” LL