Expired hazmat check means suspended CDL for veteran driver

| 10/13/2011

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 for a few weeks before returning in late September. That way, Rod’s CDL could be renewed before it expired on Oct. 2, his birthday.

When the Baillies got home and checked their mail, they found a rude awakening waiting for them. The Nevada DOT sent certified mail notifying Rod that his CDL would be suspended for a minimum of 30 days.

“It’s been a nightmare,” Rod told Land Line. “If it weren’t for my wife, we’d be out of business.”

The case highlights a key clerical discrepancy that could ruin the businesses and bank accounts of thousands of truck drivers who obtain hazardous material endorsements that expire before their CDLs are required to be renewed.

As it turns out, Rod’s hazmat endorsement background check expired in late September. Because he hadn’t hauled hazmat for some time, Rod decided not to renew his endorsement. He would renew his CDL the first week of 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. I had no notice that it was expired, and I drove back from Los Angeles that day with an expired license. I didn’t know.”

In the process of suspending Baillie’s license, Nevada may have violated federal transportation regulations themselves.

In its certified letter notifying Rod Baillie that his CDL was suspended, 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.

To further complicate matters, Baillie passed a TSA background check in early 2009 in order to obtain his Transportation Worker Identification Credential. That background check is good for another two years.

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 Department of Motor Vehicles, 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. “It’s a personal choice.”

The Baillies were trucking in early October, as Rod remained in the passenger seat of their 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.

“I’m lucky it’s all paid for,” Rod said.

Baillie has contacted the Nevada governor’s office, both U.S. Senators, and his elected congressional representative to plead for an appeal. 

He said one senator told him they’d respond to his request within 180 days.

Baillie said he’s glad his family will make it through the suspension period. He isn’t happy that a suspended license will likely be on his permanent record, and he believes the Nevada DMV should give truckers more notification time.

“I’ve exhausted everything I can think of,” he said. “Nevada DMV has my email address; I use it for IFTA. I wish they’d have emailed me.

“Hopefully other truckers don’t get caught up in this.”