Fuel Smarts

Tough New CDL Rules Proposed

May 03, 2001

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Truck drivers who break traffic laws in their own vehicles can lose their Commercial Driver’s License, under new rules proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The agency is moving to close loopholes in the CDL system, specifically targeting state enforcement practices that have allowed scofflaw drivers to stay behind the wheel.

Under proposed rules that will be published in the Federal Register tomorrow, the agency will require all states to disqualify a driver who is convicted of a serious violation in a vehicle other than his truck. Specifically, the driver’s CDL can be revoked, canceled or suspended.
The agency is targeting a weakness in the current system, in which some states do not consider a driver’s non-commercial violations when he applies for a CDL. Because of this disconnect, trucking companies sometimes do not get a full picture of a driver applicant’s record.
This is a key safety issue, because it is generally acknowledged that past driving behavior is a reliable indicator of future performance. In fact, when Congress ordered the agency to write this rule, it specifically said that personal behavior is relevant to CDL fitness.
The proposed rule also requires states to disqualify a CDL driver for a year if he is convicted of refusing to take an alcohol test while driving a non-commercial vehicle.
A driver will lose his CDL for life if convicted of dispensing a controlled substance while operating a non-commercial vehicle.
These changes arise from concerns about the CDL system that emerged during drafting of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. The CDL system, which establishes a national standard for all commercial drivers, is considered a great improvement over the system that permitted drivers to dodge violations by collecting a fistful of state licenses – but it still has weaknesses.
A glaring example cited in a congressional hearing by Sen. John Breaux, D-La., was a New Orleans bus accident that killed 22 people. The bus driver had a valid commercial driver’s license even though he had been fired twice for drug abuse and had disqualifying health problems.

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