Safety Regulations Guide Both Truckers and Their Employers
Resources for Colorado Drivers on Laws Regulating the Trucking Industry
Because of their extreme size and weight, commercial trucks are capable of causing very serious and even fatal injuries in the event of an accident with a smaller passenger vehicle. As a result, safety is a huge priority for the trucking industry.
The requirements for obtaining a commercial driver’s license reflect the high level of knowledge, experience, skills and physical abilities required, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In order to obtain a commercial driver’s license, an applicant is required to successfully pass both skills and knowledge tests. In addition, special endorsements are often required if drivers will be operating any of the following types of vehicles:
- A truck with double or triple trailers
- A truck with a tank
- A truck carrying hazardous materials
- A passenger vehicle
Most drivers must obtain a CDL through their home state, and it is illegal to possess a license from more than one state. A driver must obtain a CDL instruction permit before getting a CDL in Colorado. The CDL instruction permit will allow operating the class of vehicle shown on the permit only when accompanied by a person at least 21 years of age who holds a valid CDL of the same class of license or higher.
To obtain a CDL in Colorado, drivers must pass a knowledge test indicating that they are aware of safe driving information including:
- Vehicle inspection
- Basic control of the vehicle
- Controlling speed
- Seeing hazards
- Distracted driving
- Night driving/driver fatigue
- Mountain driving
- Accident procedures
- Alcohol, other drugs, and driving
CDL drivers are routinely held to a higher standard when operating a commercial vehicle on public roads, and traffic violations can affect their continued ability to maintain certification.
Federal Trucking Laws That Encourage Safety
Various federal laws hold semi truck drivers, as well as trucking companies, to high standards that require compliance with all applicable safety regulations.
- The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act of 2012 requires truck operators to use electric onboard recorders (EOBRs) to help deal with driver fatigue and implements higher fines for carriers that continue to operate illegally after being shut down for safety violations.
- Federal law prohibits the use of alcohol and other controlled substances while driving a semi truck. Under 49 CFR 382, employers are required to implement and follow alcohol and controlled substance testing in compliance with federal law.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has enacted regulations to prohibit truckers from texting, dialing, and even holding a phone while operating a truck, although drivers are allowed to use hands-free mobile devices requiring only a single touch.
- On July 1, 2013, new hours-of-service safety regulations to reduce truck driver fatigue went into effect. These federal regulations limit the maximum average workweek for truck drivers to 70, a decrease from the previous maximum of 82 hours.
- According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the FMCSA is currently considering the possibility of mandating sleep apnea screening for truck drivers and requiring treatment for those who have been diagnosed with the condition. Research has shown that truck drivers with obstructive sleep apnea who were not being treated had a crash rate five times that of truckers without the ailment.
A Shared Responsibility for Safety
Trucking companies are required to ensure that the trucks they run are well maintained and that the drivers they hire are professional. But according to the FMCSA, even the most well-trained, safety-conscious truck driver is at risk of engaging in driving behaviors that could lead to a crash. Fatigue, failure to look, and external distractions can all lead to a fatal truck accident.
The Our Roads, Our Responsibility program strives to educate drivers “on how to improve driving behavior, learn to coexist on the same roadways, and work together to reduce crashes.” Defensive driving techniques such as slowing down in work zones, keeping a safe following distance, and being aware of “no-zones” can help avoid trucking accidents and fatalities and help keep the country’s roadways safer for all motorists, including truckers.