As a trucker, safety should always be a top priority. Part of staying safe on the road is following all regulations from the Federal Motor Safety Administration (FMCSA). This organization regulates the trucking industry. Following FMCSA requirements is important not only for your safety but also for avoiding fines and other consequences. The trucking company you choose to work for should assist you in staying compliant, but you are also responsible for being aware of regulations and following them.
Some of the key FMCSA regulations for truckers:
Drug and Alcohol Tests
Before you can drive a commercial vehicle, you will need to pass a drug test. Some companies may require an alcohol test before you begin employment as well. Throughout your career, there will be other circumstances when you are required to undergo drug and alcohol testing. These include random tests, after an accident, and if a supervisor has a reasonable suspicion of use/abuse.
If you fail or refuse to take a drug or alcohol test, your company will remove you from safety-sensitive duties, meaning you cannot drive. You will need to complete the return-to-duty process. Any drug and alcohol violations are reported to the FMCSA Clearinghouse, meaning they are visible to potential employers later on.
Hours of Service Limits
In order to help prevent truck driver fatigue, the FMCSA sets hours or service (HOS) limits. These regulations govern how long truckers can drive or be on-duty before they have to take a break. Truck drivers are responsible for planning their days to stay within these guidelines.
Depending on the type of trucking job you pursue, you will likely need to use an electronic logging device (ELD) to record your HOS. This means that if you are stopped by law enforcement or are subject to an inspection, your driving and on-duty time can be audited.
Here are some HOS rules you should know:
- There is a maximum of 11 hours of driving time before you must take 10 consecutive hours off-duty. In the event that there are unforeseeable adverse conditions that make it impossible to find safe parking before the 11 hours is up, you can extend the maximum time to 13 hours. However, this only applies if the conditions were truly unforeseeable (e.g. rush hour traffic or predicted weather would not count).
- After 14 consecutive hours on duty, you must take a 10-hour break. Driving time occurs within this window. On-duty non-driving tasks may include pre-trip inspections or fueling.
- You must take a 30-minute break after 8 consecutive hours of driving.
- In a seven-day timeframe, the maximum driving time is 60 hours. In an eight-day timeframe, the limit is 70 hours. You need to take a 34-hour break to reset this.
The above guidelines are the most basic you need to remember but keep in mind there are other rules you must know and follow. You can use the educational tool on the FMCSA’s website to help you understand HOS requirements.
Before you hit the road each day, you need to perform a pre-trip inspection to ensure your vehicle is in good working order. Per FMCSA regulations, this is a requirement for commercial drivers, and driving an unsafe vehicle or failing to ensure the vehicle is safe is a violation. If there is ever an issue during your inspection, you need to let your dispatcher know so they can arrange for it to be fixed promptly.
During hauls, you may also be stopped from a roadside inspection. These involve a thorough check of your vehicle, as well as your HOS and various documents. A pre-trip inspection helps you ensure you are ready if you are ever subject to one of these inspections.
The regulations in this article are only some of the rules you need to know. When in doubt, keep in mind that you can always ask your supervisor (once you start working for a trucking company) or your instructor (while attending trucking school).
Get Your CDL and Enter the Trucking Industry
If you are interested in a trucking career, Phoenix Truck Driving School in Albuquerque can help. We teach you everything you need to know to pass your commercial driver’s license (CDL) test and offer job placement assistance to help you hit the road as soon as possible.