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The trucking industry is essential to our nation’s economy. Trucks deliver every- thing from raw materials to manufacturers to completed product to warehouses, stores, and homes. Trucks deliver seed and fertilizer to suppliers and the farm and food to our nation’s grocers. Virtually everything, at one time or another, is moved by a truck.


It is estimated that there are over four million tractor-trailer combinations on the roads, delivering three out of every four tons of goods. The trucking industry employs more than eight million people in jobs from the professional driver to dis- patcher to warehouse worker.


This chapter will introduce you to some of the basics when it comes to the trucking industry — how it is regulated, the qualifications you must meet, and terms to become familiar with.



A Regulated Industry


The trucking industry is subject to government regulation, intended in part to ensure safety for those in the industry as well as the general motoring public. Part of being a professional driver is knowing and complying with the regulations that affect you and your industry. A motor driver may operate in Interstate Commerce, Intrastate Commerce, or both.


When discussing compliance with the regulations it is important to under- stand the following terms.


Interstate Commerce — You are involved in interstate commerce if you drive a commercial motor vehicle that hauls from state to state, from overseas, or across U.S. borders.


Intrastate Commerce — You are involved in intrastate commerce if you drive a commercial motor vehicle that hauls within a state and never crosses a state line. The trip must begin and end in the same state, it can not have crossed state lines by any form of transportation such as rail, air, ship, or truck.


FMCSA — The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Safety Administration (FMCSA) oversees motor vehicle safety. Motor vehicle drivers operating in interstate commerce must comply with the agency’s regulations, commonly referred to as the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).


The FMCSRs define fundamental safety guidelines and requirements for commercial motor vehicles, drivers, and other motor vehicle personnel. The FMCSRs cover the following topics:


  • Hours of service;


  • Driver qualification;


  • Driver disqualification;


  • Physical qualification;


  • Drug and alcohol testing;



  • Vehicle parts and accessories; and


  • Vehicle inspection.



For intrastate activities, the majority of states accept at least part of the FMCSRs. From one state to the next, requirements do differ. Before you go on the road, be sure you are familiar with the state rules if you are doing intrastate business.


Numerous organizations regulate the handling and transportation of hazardous items. These organizations include the National Transportation Safety Board, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency (NTSB). All personnel who come into contact with hazardous chemicals, including those who are in charge of preparation and transportation, those who transport these items, and emergency responders, are subject to the restrictions included in 49 CFR Parts 105 to 180.



The hazardous materials rules deal with a number of issues, such as:


  • Classification


  • Emergency response;


  • Incident notification and reporting;


  • Labeling;


  • Marking;


  • Plavehicleding;


  • Shipping papers; and


  • Training.


Other regulations — Other rules that pertain to their sector of the economy, including that governing worker safety, environmental protection, and taxation, must also be complied with by drivers and their vehicleriers.



The Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)


Obtaining a commercial driver's license is one of the first stages of turning into a professional driver (CDL). What is necessary to get a CDL is outlined in the list below. The CDL handbook for your state, published by the licensing authority in your state, has all the information.


Application procedures — To qualify for a CDL, you must fulfill the following conditions:


  • CState that you will be operating your vehicle in one of the four categories listed below: non-excepted intrastate, excepted intrastate, and non-excepted interstate (documents provided by your state licensing agency will explain each of the classifications)

  • Succeed in a knowledge exam for the kind of vehicle(s) you want to drive, which will include a general knowledge test, a test for combination vehicles, a test for air brakes if the vehicle you will be driving has them, and more.

  • As well as written exams for any applicable endorsements;

  • Pass a driving test given by an approved third party or a driving test conducted in a vehicle similar to the kind you wish to drive;

  • State that the vehicle you use for the driving skills test is an accurate representation of the kind of vehicle you will be operating;

  • Provide accurate data that must be on the CDL (name, address, birth date, etc.)

  • CState that you have no disciplinary action pending against you under Section 383.51 of the FMCSRs or any license suspension, revocation, or cancellation imposed by state law;

  • Attest that you do not have licenses from more than one jurisdiction or state.

  • Give the state a copy of your non-CDL driver's license;

  • List all of the states in which you have had a valid driver's license for the last ten years, for any kind of vehicle; and

  • Comply with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations when applying for a hazardous materials endorsement and provide documentation of citizenship or legal permanent resident status. (An extra need is that a legal permanent resident of the United States supply their USCIS Alien Registration Number.)


Classes of license — Three vehicle categories are included in the federal requirements for the CDL. These are the groupings:


  • Combination Vehicle (Group A) — Any set of vehicles having a combined gross weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 pounds (11,794 kilograms) or more, provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is more than 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms);


  • Heavy Straight Vehicle (Group B) — Any one vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of at least 26,001 pounds (11,794 kilograms), or any such vehicle towing another vehicle having a GVWR of no more than 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms);


  • Small Vehicle (Group C) — Any one or more vehicles that do not fulfill Group A or Group B definitions as stated in this section but are intended to vehiclery 16 or more people (including the driver) or are used to transport a plavehicledable quantity of hazardous chemicals.




Endorsements — To drive specific kinds of commercial motor vehicles, you need to have CDL endorsements. Here are the recommendations:


T — Double/triple trailers;


P — Passenger;


N — Tank vehicle;


H — Hazardous materials;


X — A combination of tank vehicle and hazardous materials; and


S — School bus.


States could have extra rules and endorsements. On the license, these codes must be explained.




Driver Qualification


There is more to being a professional driver than just getting a commercial driver's license (CDL) and hitting the road, as you will discover during this course of instruction. The requirements for operating a commercial motor vehicle are covered in this section (CMV). As we have indicated, these rules are a component of the FMCSRs.


General qualifications — To operate a CMV, you need to fulfill several conditions, according to Section 391.11 of the FMCSRs. You meet the criteria if you:


  • Are above the age of 21;

  • Speak, read, and write English well enough to perform your work duties;

  • Can handle a truck;

  • Succeed a DOT physical examination;

  • Have no more than one active business driving permit;

  • Have you provided your employer with a list of any offenses for which you have recently been found guilty?

  • Are not ineligible to operate a commercial vehicle; and

  • Passed in a road test.


To assess if the vehicle is correctly loaded, distributed, and secured, you must also be knowledgeable about the techniques and processes for securing goods. Vehicle load security will be covered in a later chapter.


Driver qualification file — According to Section 391.51 of the FMCSRs, an employer is obliged to have a driver qualification (DQ) file on file for each driver it hires. The following records need to be in your DQ file:


  • An application for a job;


  • State-issued motor vehicle records;


  • A copy of the license or certificate is allowed in place of the road test form and certificate;


  • Original or copy of the medical exam certificate;


  • A certificate of skill performance evaluation (SPE) or a medical certification;


  • Each state agency's response to the yearly review of the driving record investigation;


  • A note about the yearly examination of your driving history;


  • List of charges.


Your employer is required to keep a copy of your DQ file for the duration of your employment and three years after your termination, if applicable.


Physical exam — You cannot operate a commercial motor vehicle unless you are physically fit and have a certificate from a medical examiner attesting to your fitness (See Sec. 391, Subpart E of the FMCSRs.)


You may not drive if you:


  • Have lost a foot, leg, hand, or arm but have not received a certificate for a skill performance assessment (SPE)


  • Do not have an SPE and have a hand, finger, arm, foot, or leg handicap that interferes with your ability to perform routine duties related to operating a commercial motor vehicle;


  • Have diabetes that has to be controlled with insulin;


  • Have a condition that results in chest discomfort, dizziness, or shortness of breath;


  • Suffer from respiratory or chest conditions such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, or asthma;


  • Have high blood pressure that might make driving difficult;


  • Lose sensation or mobility in a portion of your body;

  • Be afflicted with a disease that might lead to unconsciousness or a loss of motor control while operating a commercial vehicle;


  • Have any mental conditions that would make it difficult for you to operate a commercial motor vehicle safely;


  • Have bad eyesight that impairs your ability to see close-up items, side-by-side objects, or the colors of traffic signals (you are not permitted to drive if you can only see with one eye);


  • Have impaired hearing (you must pass a hearing test on a doctor's testing equipment or be able to hear a loud whispered voice in your better ear at not less than 5 feet with or without the assistance of a hearing aid);


  • Use certain medications and harmful substances, with the exception that you may do so if a doctor has prescribed them and has informed you that doing so would not impair your ability to safely drive a commercial motor vehicle and is acquainted with your medical history and your job obligations; or

  • Be currently diagnosed with alcoholism clinically


A medical examination is necessary if you:

  • Are physically capable of operating a commercial motor vehicle but have not had a medical examination;


  • Never had a physical in the previous 24 months; or


  • Have a condition or injury that makes it difficult for you to operate a commercial vehicle.


As of January 30, 2012, you must provide your state's driver licensing agency with a current copy of your medical examiner's certificate as well as proof that you fall under one of the four categories (non-excepted interstate, excepted interstate, non-excepted intrastate, or excepted intrastate) when you apply for a CDL. These processes must be followed and these papers must be submitted by January 30, 2014, for those who presently have a CDL.


Up to January 30, 2014, you must drive a commercial motor vehicle with a copy of your medical examiner's certificate, and must keep a copy in your driver qualification file. After January 30, 2014, you will not need to have a copy of your medical examiner's certificate with you at all times, and your motor vehiclerier will not need to keep one in the driver qualification file either. Your driving record will keep track of this information.


Driver disqualification— If found guilty of certain crimes while operating any kind of vehicle, including a personal vehicle, a driver with a commercial driver's license (CDL) may be barred from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). The FMCSRs' Section 383.51 addresses this.

Major offenses — If you are convicted of any of the following serious crimes while operating a CMV or another kind of vehicle, you are prohibited from operating a CMV:


  • Having an alcohol-related intoxication as defined by state law;


  • Having a restricted medicine in your system;


  • Refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test when a state or other authority requests it by its implied consent laws or regulations;


  • Departing from an accident site;


  • Committing a crime while driving; or


  • Using a vehicle to commit a crime involving the production, distribution, or distribution of a controlled drug.


If you are found guilty of any of the serious crimes listed below while operating a CMV, you are prohibited from doing so going forward:


  • Having a blood alcohol level of 0.04 or above;


  • Driving a CMV when the driver's CDL is suspended, revoked, or canceled due to past infractions committed while driving a CMV, or if the driver is otherwise ineligible to operate a CMV; or



If you are not transporting hazardous items, the disqualification term for the first conviction is one year, except for operating a vehicle in the commission of a crime involving the creation, distribution, or dispensing of a restricted drug.


Transporting dangerous chemicals will result in a three-year disqualification.


For a second conviction, the disqualification term is life.


You are permanently barred from driving and ineligible for reinstatement if you are found guilty of using a vehicle in the conduct of a crime involving the production, distribution, or dispensing of a prohibited drug.


Serious traffic violations — If you are found guilty of any combination of two or more of the following serious traffic offenses while driving any kind of vehicle (CMV or non-CMV), you are prohibited from operating a CMV.


  • Excessive speeding—at least 15 mph above the posted limit;


  • Distracted driving;


  • Making erroneous or unpredictable lane changes in traffic;


  • Following the vehicle in front of you too closely; or


  • Violating a municipal or state law governing motor vehicle traffic management in connection with a fatal accident, other than a parking infraction.


If you are found guilty of any combination of two or more of the following major traffic infractions while driving a CMV, you are prohibited from operating a CMV:


  • Driving a CMV while without a CDL;


  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle without a valid CDL;


  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) without the appropriate CDL class and/or endorsements for the particular vehicle group being driven, the number of passengers, or the kind of goods;


  • Driving a CMV while texting is prohibited under a state, municipal, or other ordinance on motor vehicle traffic management; or


  • Driving a CMV while using a hand-held mobile phone in violation of a state or municipal statute or ordinance on motor vehicle traffic management.


You lose your eligibility for 60 days if you are found guilty of two major traffic offenses in separate events during a three-year period.


You lose your eligibility for 120 days if you are found guilty of three major traffic offenses in separate events within any three-year period.


Out-of-service violation — During a journey, an enforcement officer may take you out of service for a certain amount of time or until a specific issue has been resolved. Normally, this takes place at a weigh station or a roadside check.


If you are found guilty of breaking such an out-of-service order, you will be fined and suspended from further employment. The length of disqualification spans from 180 days to 5 years, with penalties being more severe for drivers of vehicles transporting dangerous items. The range of penalties for disobeying an out-of-service order is $2,500 to $5,000.


Railroad-highway grade crossing violations — If you are found guilty of one of the six violations at a railroad-highway grade crossing, you are prohibited from operating a vehicle that requires a CDL. For further information, see Section 383.51(d) of the FMCSRs.

A disqualification term of between 60 days and a year may be imposed on you if you are found guilty of violating the railroad-highway grade crossing law.

If an employer is found guilty of intentionally enabling, approving, or permitting a driver to infringe on the railroad-highway grade crossing rule, they might be fined up to $10,000.


Drug and alcohol testing — Alcohol and/or drug usage while driving is a severe problem. Alcohol and/or drug usage while driving is prohibited and harmful for the user as well as other drivers.

Drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) who must meet CDL criteria are subject to the Part 382 alcohol and drug regulations.

Note: Drivers who operate a commercial motor vehicle in the United States who are subject to the Licencia Federal de Conductor (Mexico) regulations or the commercial driver's license requirements of the Canadian National Safety Code are also subject to the alcohol and drug laws in Part 382.


Alcohol abuse that can impair the execution of a task that is safety-sensitive is forbidden.


Alcohol abuse that can impair the execution of a task that is safety-sensitive is forbidden. A safety- sensitive function is defined as the time from the point at which you start working or must be prepared to start working to the point at which you are freed from working, as well as any duties associated with performing work. (For detailed information, see Section of the FMCSRs.) Using alcohol is prohibited when:


  •  Use while conducting tasks that need attention to safety;
  • ​​Use 4 hours before engaging in safety-sensitive activities;
  • ​​Showing up for work or continuing to work when impaired by drinking with a 0.04 or higher blood alcohol content;
  • ​​Use between eight hours after an accident or up to the time you take a post-accident test; or
  • ​​Refusal to take a required test.


You are not allowed to do safety-sensitive tasks for at least 24 hours if your blood alcohol level is 0.02 or higher but less than 0.04.


It is forbidden to take drugs that might impair the execution of safety-sensitive tasks, such as:


  • The use of any medication other than those obtained with a doctor's prescription, and even then, only if the doctor has informed you that the medication will not impair your ability to drive a commercial motor vehicle safely;​​

  • Obtaining a drug test result, or​​

  • Having a drug test result that has been tampered with or replaced.


You could be required by your employer to disclose any therapeutic medication usage.

There are many tests that commercial motor vehicle drivers must pass:


  • Pre-employment drug test — You must submit to a drug test before doing any safety-sensitive tasks. Before enabling you to operate a motor vehicle or engage in other safety-sensitive activities, the firm must get a negative outcome.


  • Post accident test —


    • After a collision involving a commercial motor vehicle, you must submit to an alcohol test as soon as reasonably possible:


If an accident results in a fatality; or

If any accident participants are hurt and are removed away from the site for medical attention within eight hours of the accident and you obtain a ticket for a moving traffic offense;​​

If you receive a citation within 8 hours of the accident for a moving traffic violation and one or more of the vehicles involved is towed away from the scene.


  • You must submit to a drug test as soon as is reasonably possible after an accident involving a commercial motor vehicle:

If an accident results in a fatality; or

If anybody involved in the collision is hurt and transported away from the scene for medical attention within 32 hours after the accident, and you are issued a ticket for a moving traffic offense; 

If you are required to submit to post-accident testing, you must continue to be available; otherwise, the business may assume that you have declined to submit to the testing;

If one or more of the affected vehicles are tow away from the site of the accident and you are issued a moving traffic violation ticket within 32 hours of the collision.

If you are required to submit to post-accident testing, you must abstain from drinking for eight hours after the accident or until you are required to submit to an alcohol test, whichever comes first.


  • Random testing — An annual proportion of drivers must submit to an unannounced random test. Unannounced and evenly spaced random testing must be conducted throughout the year. You must visit the testing location as soon as you learn that you have been chosen for random testing.


While you are performing, just before you perform, or sight after you do a safety-sensitive function, you will be randomly tested for alcohol. While you are working for the firm, random drug testing may be done at any moment.


A scientifically sound technique must be used to choose the drivers for all random testing. The DOT only accepts as scientifically genuine a random number table or even a computer-based random number generator that is linked with drivers' Social Security numbers, payroll identification numbers, or other equivalent identifying numbers. Name-pulling is not regarded as a reliable scientific method.


A calendar year's worth of random drug and/or alcohol testing entails returning your name to the pool for each new selection. During each selection procedure, each driver must have an equal probability of being tested.


  • Reasonable suspicion testing — The law requires you to submit to an alcohol or drug test if a corporate officer or supervisor has a good faith suspicion that you are abusing drugs or alcohol while performing your work duties. The supervisor or official at the firm must have reason to suspect you based on specific, unequivocal observations of your look, conduct, speech, or body odor.


Only observations taken during, just before, or sight after you conduct safety-sensitive duties are permitted for alcohol testing. The individual who decides that reasonable articulable suspicion exists may not administer the alcohol test.

You must wait 24 hours after the finding of reasonable suspicion or until an alcohol test is conducted and your alcohol concentration measures less than 0.02, whichever comes first if reasonable suspicion is noticed but no reasonable suspicion test has yet been conducted.


Anytime there is a reasonable suspicion while you are on duty, your employer has the sight to request that you take a drug test. In addition to the previously mentioned indicators, supervisor observations may also include signs of the long-term and withdrawal effects of medications.


The laws forbid an employer from taking any additional action against you beyond what was already mentioned based just on your conduct and outward appearance and without a test result. However, the employer is free to act without regard to the rules.


  • Return-to-duty/follow-up testing — If a drug or alcohol test is negative, you must be examined by a substance abuse professional (SAP) and follow the SAP's recommended education and/or treatment plan.


You must complete the SAP-required education and/or treatment program and submit to a return-to-duty test with results showing an alcohol concentration of less than 0.02 and/or a verified negative drug test before you may resume your duties.


You will then be submitted to further testing. The SAP determines the number and frequency of the examinations, but they must include at least six exams in the first year after your return to duty.


Up to 60 months may pass between follow-up examinations (5 years). If the SAP decides the testing is no longer required after the first 12 months, the necessity for follow-up testing may be terminated.

Only while performing a safety-sensitive function, either before or sight after performing a safety-sensitive activity, may you submit to a follow-up alcohol test.


The Commercial Motor Vehicle — An Overview


Throughout your driving, you can be required to drive a variety of commercial motor vehicles. Here is a quick explanation of some of the fundamental terminology. Later chapters will go into further depth on this.


The tractor — It is used to tow a vehicle or fleet of vehicles (trailers, semi-trailers, tankers, flatbeds, etc.).


The conventional tractor or the cab-over-engine (COE) tractor are the two most popular cab designs.


Conventional tractor — Tractor with a traditional design has its engine beneath the hood. The engine is in front of the driver, same as in passenger vehicles.


Cab-over-engine — Lower than the cab is where the engine is. The tractor's front is flat, and the driver is positioned above the front wheels.


The text will also utilize the terminology listed below about vehicles.


Steering axle — The vehicle's steering is controlled by the front axle.


Drive axle — The axle(s) that actively pull the load while being propelled.


Tandem axle — Two axles assembled as a unit (could be on the tractor or the trailer).


Duals — A set of wheels and tires attached to one axle's same side..


Trailer — The goods are kept and transported in the trailer. The complete trailer and the semitrailer are two different kinds of trailers.


Full trailer — Its axles support a fully loaded trailer. Its whole weight is independent of the towing vehicle.


Semitrailer — A tractor, namely the tractor's fifth wheel, supports the front of a semitrailer. A semitrailer's front end sits on what is known as landing gear when it is detached from the tractor.



The fifth wheel is a coupling mechanism used to connect the front of the trailer to the tractor and is placed at the back frame of the tractor. It seems to be a circular, flat plate with a v-shaped notch.




You have learned about the first steps necessary to join the trucking business as a professional driver in this chapter. As you can see, acquiring a license and hitting the road is not enough. You must possess the necessary skills and knowledge of the market. You must also be aware of your obligations to your organization, the regulatory bodies, yourself, your family, and the general driving public.

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