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Commercial Truck Driving Rules

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Commercial truck drivers transport goods throughout the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the truck-driving industry provides 3.2 million jobs. Since drivers move freight through all states, the federal government has established regulations governing the industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a branch of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), oversees the regulations governing commercial truck drivers in the U.S.

Drug Test

Any driver is subject to random drug testing at any time, as well as pre-employment drug screening. It is illegal for truck drivers to use drugs or alcohol while driving.

Physical Exam

A driver must pass a physical exam and be declared physically fit by a doctor at least every two years. In addition, a trucker whose alertness might be impaired due to illness may not operate a vehicle.

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Commercial Driver's License

Truckers must hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL) that allows the trucker to operate any vehicle in excess of 26,000 gross pounds. To get a CDL, you must pass a skills test as well as a written test covering the handling of a truck and the mechanical systems used to operate it.

Inspection

Before going on the road, each driver must inspect his truck to make sure that the following instruments are working properly: parking brake, service brakes including trailer brake connections, reflectors, steering mechanism, horn, tires, coupling devices, windshield wipers, and rear-vision mirrors. The driver is also required to verify that his load falls within the specified weight limits for the type of cargo he is hauling and that the freight is properly distributed and secured. Law enforcement officials inspect trucks, trailers, and paperwork at weigh stations along interstate highways.

Driving Regulations

Drivers must obey the traffic laws, such as speed limits, of the states they are traveling through. However, some laws must be observed in all states. All drivers must wear seat belts. When approaching any railroad crossing, the trucker must reduce speed and come to a complete stop before crossing the tracks. If driving in hazardous weather conditions, the driver must stop operating his truck if conditions deteriorate so badly that driving becomes unsafe.

Hours of Operation

A driver may not operate his vehicle for more than 11 hours in any 14-hour period. Once he has reached the 11-hour limit, he must take a rest period of no less than ten consecutive hours. However, drivers may drive for ten hours following an eight-hour rest period. DOT regulations require truckers to keep a logbook recording all rest and work periods, which they must present to law enforcement personnel when requested. In addition, drivers must keep their logbooks current and retain records of all work and rest periods for the last seven days within the truck at all times.

Transporting Other Persons

Drivers may not transport any unauthorized person in a commercial vehicle unless authorized by their employer. This requirement does not apply if a trucker is providing assistance to someone involved in an accident or emergency.

About the Author

Marci Sothern has written as a tutor in the academic field since 1999. She holds a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in political science from the University of Texas at Tyler. Her main areas of expertise include American history, comparative politics, international relations and political theory.

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