As a commercial driver, understanding commercial traffic laws and regulations that govern your profession is crucial.
In California, and likely everywhere else, commercial drivers are held to a higher standard than their non-commercial driving peers, and violations can result in more severe penalties, fines, and even the loss of employment. Therefore, knowing the unique rules and regulations that apply to you as a commercial driver is vital.
Understanding Commercial Traffic Laws: Higher Penalties and Fines
Commercial drivers in CA are subject to a 50% higher assessment of Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) points for moving violation convictions. These higher points can lead to higher insurance premiums, license suspensions, and even the loss of employment. Many fleet managers have a zero-tolerance policy regarding moving violations, so a single violation could result in disciplinary action or termination because every moving violation raises the fleet premium.
The most common moving violations for truckers include speeding, illegal cell phone use, following too closely, and unsafe lane changes, which are considered "serious offenses" by the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (DOT FMCSA). A second conviction for these offenses within three years can result in a 60-day driver disqualification.
These moving violation convictions count against the DOT number of the fleet you drive for and likely result in a higher fleet insurance premium.
Hours of Service (HOS) Rules
To prevent fatigue while driving, the DOT FMCSA has established HOS rules limiting the number of hours commercial drivers can drive or be “on-duty,” accepting loads, fueling the vehicle, performing maintenance checks, and “other non-personal time.” These rules require drivers to take mandatory breaks and limit the number of hours that they can drive/work after an eight-hour off-duty period. It is crucial to be aware of these rules and comply with them.
Understanding commercial traffic laws for each state is vital. Each of the states they drive through can add to the already stringent rules from the DOT FMCSA. However, they can’t legally take away from Federal regulations.
Say California wants trucking firms to pay the trucker for taking two breaks of 30 minutes or more. They could do that because they add another break beyond the FMCSA’s HOS rule of one within the first 8-hours of driving, which can be considered on-duty or off.
Each also has oversized vehicle traffic codes, rules, and regulations for weight and axle lengths and oversized loads permitted on their highways without permits. Commercial drivers must be aware of these regulations and comply with them while driving in each state.
Illegal Cell Phone Use
In CA, it is illegal for drivers to pick up/hold a handheld device or phone while driving, even at a red light or in a traffic jam. Commercial drivers must be off the road and the vehicle in park before using a cell phone that is not part of a central communication system or mounted on the dashboard within easy reach of the driver. The driver must operate it with a single-finger swipe. Violating this law can result in hefty fines and the loss of employment.
However, when even with the best intentions, things go wrong. When you find yourself on the wrong end of a misunderstanding of commercial traffic laws, you need experienced and knowledgeable guidance and understanding.
Commercial drivers must have an understanding of commercial traffic law or have a friend in the legal profession. Understanding and applying are two different matters. We understand how an 18-wheeler operates, but we don’t have a commercial driver’s license, so you won’t see us behind the wheel, even though there are family members in our firm who were professional drivers-the real heroes of America. We know that without you, there would a lot of empty shelves. Give us a call to discuss your situation.
Contact the Bakersfield Traffic Law Team of Bigger & Harman If You Need Assistance in Woodland, CA
Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.
The DMV Portal CA Commercial Driver Handbook.
The FMCSA CFR 49 Part 383.51, Driver Disqualifications.