A ticket is a ticket

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The federal motor carrier safety Administration has taken the first step toward cracking down on unsafe truck drivers as mandated by Congress in the 1999 law that set up the agency. In May, the agency proposed regulations that could strip drivers of commercial driver’s licenses for serious traffic violations they commit while driving their family cars and other non-commercial vehicles.

The proposal aims to close what the lawmakers felt was a big gap in truck safety enforcement that could allow potentially unsafe drivers to operate heavy trucks.

FMCSA spokesman David Longo acknowledged the argument that drivers might operate more carefully when driving a truck than when driving a car. “Our point is that dangerous behavior in one might lead to dangerous behavior in the other – a driver who takes risks and violates motor vehicle regulations in a car is more likely to commit similar violations in his or her commercial motor vehicle.”

Under the plan,a state enforcement agency would have to “disqualify” a driver – that is, suspend, revoke or cancel his CDL – if he commits any serious driving violation in any motor vehicle.

For a first offense, while operating either a truck or a car, the driver loses his license for one year if he is convicted of:

  • Driving drunk or drugged;
  • Refusing an alcohol test;
  • Leaving the scene of an accident;
  • Using the vehicle to commit a felony or to deal drugs.

For hazardous materials haulers, the license would be yanked for three years for those offenses. Any CDL holder would lose his license for life if he is convicted of any of those violations a second time.

Short disqualification periods currently in place for excessive speeding, reckless driving, tailgating and causing a fatal accident while driving a commercial motor vehicle would be extended to personal vehicles. In addition, recently enacted rules dealing with slowing and stopping at rail crossings would cover non-commercial driving.

The proposed rule imposes several safeguards to ensure driver records are complete. It requires states to beef up their record-keeping activities to ensure that drivers do not slip through the enforcement net because of poor data management. The proposal would also move toward banning states from “masking” drivers’ records by failing to record violations or removing them after a period of time.

FMCSA’s proposal explicitly requires states to disqualify truck drivers who violate out-of-service orders. Although that requirement was originally written into a 1994 rule, a bureaucratic mistake meant the requirement never took effect.
Comments on the proposal are due Aug. 2. For a copy of the notice of proposed rulemaking, visit this site and search Docket No. 7382.