FMCSA adopts tougher CDL rule

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Changes to the rule governing commercial driver’s licenses, effective Sept. 30, promise to make getting and keeping the credentials more difficult for some truck drivers. The changes allow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration greater latitude in revoking licenses and disqualifying drivers. Under the changes, which were mandated as part of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, the FMCSA can now disqualify CDL holders who:

  • Violate drug- and alcohol-related traffic laws while operating an automobile;
  • Drive a truck after their CDL is revoked, suspended or canceled;
  • Cause a fatality though negligent or criminal operation of a truck.

Other changes are to definitions. A serious traffic violation now includes drivers who fail to obtain a CDL but drive a truck anyway; driving a truck without a CDL in the driver’s possession; and operating a truck without the correct credentials for the vehicle being driven or type of cargo being transported.

One major change allows the FMCSA’s chief safety officer to disqualify, on an emergency basis, CDL drivers who pose an “imminent hazard.” The rule defines that condition as one that presents a likelihood of death, serious personal injury or substantial danger to the public.

The final rule requires that applicants obtaining, transferring or renewing a CDL tell their state driver-licensing agency where they previously held motor vehicle licenses. This enables the issuing agency to obtain a candidate’s complete driving record.

States can also be penalized under the new rule if they haven’t substantially complied within three years. The agency can withhold funding from the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program. The final rule and a fact sheet describing it are available at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.