Starting October 4, truck or bus drivers convicted of violating railroad/highway grade crossing laws will temporarily lose their commercial licenses.
Penalties will also be assessed against motor carriers who "knowingly allow, permit, authorize or require" a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle in violation of crossing laws.
The new rule covers the following convictions: failure to slow down, stop (when required), or check for clear track; failure to obey traffic control devices or law enforcement officials; crossing without sufficient undercarriage clearance or sufficient space on the other side to clear the track without stopping.
FHWA says it doesn't matter whether the offense involves federal, state or local laws or regulations. Disqualification is 60 days for the first conviction, 120 days for a second conviction within three years, and 1 year for a third conviction within three years. State or local authorities may impose additional fines or penalties.
Employers are subject of penalties up to $10,000 if they knowingly allow a driver to operate a commercial vehicle while his/her CDL is suspended or if it can be proven that the employer knowingly allowed or required a driver to violate rail/highway crossing rules.
This ruling does not change federal regulations for railroad grade crossings as detailed in 49 CFR 392.10 and 392.11. Those rules state that drivers of commercial vehicles hauling hazardous materials must stop before crossing the tracks and cannot shift gears while crossing. Drivers not hauling hazardous materials must exercise "due caution" to determine that the course is clear and must slow to a speed that permits the vehicle to be stopped before reaching the nearest rail.
New rules for disqualification and penalties, along with FHWA's response to comments filed, appeared in the September 2 Federal Register and can be accessed at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces140.html.