Q and A: How tough is tough?
Effective Sept. 30, 2002, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
(FMCSA) is making it tougher to keep your CDL if you run afoul of
the standards set forth in the final rule. And the penalties established
for certain traffic violations occurring while operating your commercial
truck can turn around and bite you in the butt even while you're
tooling down the boulevard in your Camaro.
To get a good idea of what changes have been made and why, OOIDA
offers this CDL "Q and A."
Question: I thought these rules were set years ago. What's with
Answer: The final rule implements provisions of the Motor Carrier
Safety Improvement Act of 1999 and combines two CDL rulemakings
proposed in 2001.
Question: Why the emphasis on how truckers drive while in their
Answer: In that act, the MCSIA of 1999, Congress issued instructions
to FMCSA to issue regulations requiring the disqualification of
CDL holders convicted of a serious offense while operating a non-CMV.
According to the July 31 Federal Register, which documents the
proceedings, Congress chose not to distinguish between "risk-taking
behavior" in a passenger car or a CMV, in "the interest
of safety." Essentially, it said truckers are professional
drivers. That's what they do. Drive. So we should expect them to
be professionals all the time.
Question: So, can I lose my CDL if I am convicted of committing
a serious traffic violation in my car?
Answer: Yes. The FMCSA will require states to revoke your CDL if
you are convicted of any offense on their growing "serious
traffic" violations list while driving your truck or while
driving your personal vehicle (non-CMV).
Question: What's on the expanded list of "serious" violations?
Answer: The list of serious traffic violations has been expanded
to include: (1) no driving a CMV if you have not obtained a CDL;
(2) no driving without having your CDL in your possession; (3) no
driving a CMV if you have not met the minimum standards for the
specific class of CMV being driven or type of cargo being transported.
Question: What other offenses can disqualify me from driving my
Answer: The rule also adds two new disqualifying offenses that only
apply while driving your truck: driving a CMV after a CDL was revoked,
suspended or canceled for operating a CMV; and causing a fatality
through the negligent or criminal operation of a CMV.
In addition, are the new rules that will get you while you are
driving a non-CMV as well. At least a one-year disqualification
applies for leaving the scene of an accident or using the vehicle
to commit a felony. If you are using the vehicle to dispense, distribute
or manufacture a controlled substance, you are in big trouble and
you'll lose your CDL for life, first conviction. This applies if
you are driving a CMV or non-CMV.
Question: What about the final rules for drugs/alcohol? Are they
Answer: Under the current rule, a truckdriver can lose his/her CDL
for a year if driving a truck with an alcohol level of .04 (or greater),
or if they violate state DWI laws. What's different is you can lose
your CDL now while driving a non-CMV. This means if you are guilty
of a BAC of .04 while driving your truck, you lose your CDL for
a year. If you blow .04 in your personal vehicle, you will not lose
your CDL under the new rule, as FMCSA only has the authority to
establish a minimum alcohol concentration disqualification standard
for CDL holders. As with other minimum standards, each state is
free to be more stringent, with both CDL and non-CDL holder licensed
by their state. So if your BAC is found to exceed .08 or whatever
your state law specifies, it doesn't matter what you are driving.
Your CDL is history for at least one year.
Question: What happens if I refuse a BAC test?
Answer: If a CDL holder refuses to be tested, regardless of what
he/she are driving, a one-year disqualification would follow. A
second conviction leads to permanent disqualification.
Question: In what other areas did the rules get tougher?
Answer: The rules also call for harsher penalties for violating
railroad crossing laws and out of service orders. Other parts of
the new rules target state procedures that have allowed scofflaw
drivers to escape notice. For example, some states issue "hardship"
licenses to drivers who may lose their livelihoods if their license
is suspended. States will no longer be allowed to issue such licenses
for drivers whose CDLs have been suspended.
Question: What happens if the state does not comply with these
Answer: Money will be the tool of persuasion. Within three years
after the rule's effective date, FMCSA will penalize states not
in substantial compliance by withholding Motor Carrier Safety Assistance
Program (MCSAP) money. MCSAP funds provide financial assistance
to states through federal grants.
Also, the new rule allows FMCSA to prohibit states that do not
comply with this rule from issuing, renewing, transferring, or upgrading
Question: If the state I live in does not comply, where am I supposed
to get or renew my CDL?
Answer: You'll have to go to another state. States that comply with
FMCSA CDL requirements will be permitted to issue non- resident
CDLs to drivers living in states that have lost that privilege.
Note, the rule says those states will be permitted, or allowed,
to issue a CDL, but it doesn't say the state must do so.
Question: When I renew or transfer, do I have to tell the driver-licensing
agency in my state where I used to have a license?
Answer: Yes. The final rule requires that applicants obtaining,
transferring, or renewing a CDL tell their state driver-licensing
agency where they previously held any kind of motor vehicle licenses
for the past ten years. This enables the issuing agency to obtain
a candidate's complete driving record.
For more information, go to the FMCSA's web site at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
There's a helpful fact sheet on this site.
-- OOIDA & Land Line staff