What Are the Regulations Regarding Prohibited Conduct for Truck Drivers?

In an effort to decrease the number of accidents that occur each year involving commercial motor vehicles, various federal organizations like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have passed various laws prohibiting commercial motor vehicle drivers from performing certain activities while driving trucks. This entry will examine some of the most common prohibitions that exists concerning commercial motor vehicle drivers and the dangers that these laws attempt to solve.

Cell Phone Usage

A new federal regulation by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibits interstate commercial motor vehicle operators form using hand held cellular phones while driving. This law applies to both commercial motor vehicle drivers who talk and text on cellular phones. The reason behind this law is due to the enormous amount of damage that commercial motor vehicles which can cause serious physical injuries, death, and extensive property damage. Commercial drivers who use cell phones while driving trucks are three times more likely than others to be involved in collisions. To ensure that commercial motor vehicle drivers follow this prohibition, strict penalties exists including fines up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle after multiple offenses. Trucking companies that permit drivers to use cellular phones while driving can be fined a maximum fee of $11,000.

Hours of Services

Drivers are prohibited driving longer than an established period of time without taking sufficient breaks. In accordance with rules established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, commercial motor vehicle drivers are prohibited from driving more than ten hours at a time and then must take ten hour breaks before driving again. The purpose of these regulations is to prevent commercial motor vehicle drivers from falling asleep while operating vehicles and causing substantial damage due to an accident. Despite this prohibition, the pressure remains for commercial truck drivers to complete hauls as quickly as possible because drivers are paid by the trip than the time the trip takes. Sometimes, trucking companies that want packages transported quickly are responsible for placing additional pressure on commercial vehicle operators to break these driving rules. The presence of electronic on-board recorders helps establish that drivers do not exceed the eleven hour time limit for driving.

Alcohol Use

Prohibitions concerning alcohol and drug are perhaps the most common type of ban placed on commercial motor vehicle operators. In 1991, the United States Congress passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act, requiring each state’s Department of Transportation to exercise drug and alcohol testing of commercial motor vehicle drivers. Since the early 1990’s, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has established federal alcohol and drug rules for commercial motor vehicle drivers. There are numerous laws relating to alcohol use by commercial motor vehicle drivers, which include the following:

  • Blood Alcohol Content. No commercial motor vehicle driver is allowed to operate a commercial motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .04 or greater. Any employer who allows a commercial motor vehicle driver to operate a vehicle with this blood alcohol content can also be held liable.
  • Safety Sensitive Function. Commercial motor vehicle drivers are not allowed to use alcohol while performing “safety-sensitive functions.” Safety-sensitive functions is a legal term that includes the moment the commercial vehicle driver begins operating the vehicle until the worker stops work. Employers are not similarly allowed to let drivers drink alcohol while employed in these types of functions.
  • Four Hour Period. Commercial motor vehicle drivers must not operate vehicles within four hours of using alcohol. Employers who are aware that drivers have drank alcohol within the past four hours and are operating vehicles are also held liable.
  • Post-Accident Drinking. After a post-accident sobriety test, commercial motor vehicle drivers are not permitted to drink alcohol for eight hours following the accident or until the driver performs a sobriety test.
  • Screening Tests. Commercial motor vehicle drivers are not allowed to refuse to submit to pre-employment or post-accident screening test for alcohol or drugs, a reasonable suspicion based test for the substances or several other types of screening tests as a term of continued employment.

Illegal Drug Use

In addition to the various laws regarding alcohol use, government agencies also make sure that commercial motor vehicle drivers do not use illegal drugs while operating commercial motor vehicles. There are numerous laws relating to alcohol use by commercial motor vehicle drivers, which include the following:

  • Safety Sensitive Functions. Commercial motor vehicle drivers are not permitted to operate commercial motor vehicles when the driver has been engaging in the use of many types of drugs. Employers are also not permitted to allow commercial vehicle drivers to operate commercial vehicles when the employer knows that the commercial vehicle driver has used one of the drugs listed in the federal statute.
  • Employers may require commercial motor vehicle drivers to report the use of any therapeutic drugs that are being taken by the driver.
  • Positive Tests. Commercial motor vehicle drivers who test positive for drug use are not allowed to continue operating commercial motor vehicles.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a commercial truck accident, contact our law firm. Call 409-838-1000 or email our lawyers to schedule your free initial consultation.