SPECIAL REPORT: Pennsylvania and Oregon to comply with federal rules

| 9/30/2005

Talk about getting in under the wire.

As of Friday, Sept. 30, Pennsylvania and Oregon are among the last states to begin enforcing regulations required by the federal government in the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act, which means that commercial drivers will be facing some stiffer penalties for violations - even in their personal vehicles.

MCSIA went into effect Sept. 20, 2002, and states had three years to comply.

Earlier this year, lawmakers in both states realized their states risked losing as much as $40 million in federal highway funds if they did not comply with the rules by Sept. 30.

Congress passed the requirement in 1999, intended to reduce the number and severity of crashes involving large trucks and buses.

State departments of transportation must comply with the regulations in several areas, including:

  • Obtaining out-of-state driving records for the past 10 years for CDL applicants and reflecting their driving histories electronically;
  • Counting traffic violations committed in personal vehicles the same as if the violation had occurred in a commercial vehicle. These violations include improper passing, reckless driving and traveling more than 15 mph over the speed limit; and
  • Keeping convictions for any violation (except parking tickets) of state and local traffic laws in the state on permanent record for CDLs. For example, a record of entering an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for drunk driving would not be removed from a driver's record.

Those violations will count against an individual's commercial driver's license, even if the individual is driving his or her personal vehicle when they occur.

Violations incurred in personal vehicles prior to Sept. 30 will not count against drivers.

Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler said in a written statement that the state's new laws use a "two strikes and you're out" approach.

 "Two major traffic offenses in a personal or commercial vehicle will permanently disqualify a commercial driver from operating a commercial vehicle," he said.

And that word "permanently" has truckers scratching their heads. The FMCSA has allowed for states to reinstate any disqualified driver for "life" offenses after ten years if that person has voluntarily entered and successfully completed a rehab program approved by the state. But states are not mandated to allow the reinstatement, it's up to the state.

Another headscratcher is the "major" offense language. Truckers are familiar with "serious" offenses. For a complete rundown of the offenses and their respective disqualifications in Pennsylvania click here:http://www.dot10.state.pa.us/pdotforms/fact_sheets/fs-pub7216.pdf

For a complete rundown of program in Oregon click here:http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV/driverid/federal_cdl_reqs.shtml