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Chapter Six Commercial Driver License Requirements and Special Rules That Apply To Truck Drivers

“Win Your Truck Crash Case And Avoid The Surprises That Can Wreck It”

The FMCSA sets the national standards with which truck drivers must comply. The federal agency partners with state and local governments, who issue their own commercial driver licenses (CDL). In order to obtain a CDL, a truck driver must be familiar with the trucking rules set out in its state’s commercial driver guide. Missouri, Illinois, and all states publish an annual Commercial Driver License Manual, which contains requirements for truck drivers to obtain CDLs and the rules of the road that truck drivers must follow. This chapter will touch on some of the important provisions of the Missouri Commercial Driver License Manual, including commercial vehicle classifications, CDL requirements, and specific rules truckers must follow. Click here to see the original manual for Missouri and click here for the Illinois manual. I often use this manual in my truck crash cases to point out instances of truck driver negligence where they violated a rule of the road or did not meet certain CDL requirements.

Truck Descriptions

The Missouri Commercial Guide classifies commercial vehicles into three categories: Class A, Class B, and Class C. For this reason, a commercial truck driver must have the proper license for the truck they are driving.

A commercial vehicle falls under Class A if “any combination of vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating of 26,001 or more pounds provided the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the vehicle(s) being towed is more than 10,000 pounds. (Holders of a Class A license may also, with appropriate endorsements, operate all vehicles within Class B and C.) This includes tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, tractor-trailer buses, tankers, livestock carriers, and flatbeds.

A Vehicle falls under Class B if “any single vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,001 or more pounds or any such vehicle towing a vehicle, not over 10,000 pounds Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. (Holders of a Class B license may also, with any appropriate endorsements, operate all vehicles within Class C.)” This includes straight trucks, large buses, segmented buses, box trucks, and dump trucks with small trailers.

All other commercial vehicles fall under Class C, “any single vehicle less than 26,001 pounds GVWR or any such vehicle towing a vehicle, not more than 10,000 pounds GVWR. This group applies only to vehicles that are placarded for hazardous materials or are designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the operator. A holder of a Class A, B, or C license may drive all vehicles which may be driven by a holder of a Class E or Class F license. Vehicles requiring a Class C CDL include small HAZMAT vehicles, passenger vans, and small trucks towing a trailer.

The manual describes it like this:

MISSOURI CLASSIFICATION SYSTEM

(Note: Certain types of vehicles such as tankers, passenger, school buses, vehicles hauling hazardous materials, and double/triple trailers, will require an endorsement. Please consult text for particulars.)

Class A

Any combination of vehicles with a Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds provided the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds. (Holders of a Class A license may also, with any appropriate endorsements, operate all vehicles within Class B and C.)

Examples include but are not limited to:

Class B

Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR. (Holders of a Class B license may also, with any appropriate endorsements, operate all vehicles within Class C.)

Examples include but are not limited to:

Class C

Any single vehicle less than 26,001 pounds GVWR or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR. This group applies only to vehicles that are placarded for hazardous materials or are designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the operator. A holder of a Class A, B, or C license may drive all vehicles which may be driven by a holder of a Class E or Class F license.

Examples include but are not limited to:

Drivers Who Must Obtain a Missouri Commercial Driver’s License

A person also is required to have a license if they are driving a single vehicle with a gross vehicle towing another not over 10,000 pounds.

A commercial license is also required when driving a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver regardless of size.

Lastly, any person who drives a vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials is required to have a commercial license in Missouri.

Test Required of Truck Drivers To Obtain a Commercial Driver’s License

Commercial truck drivers are required to pass certain tests to obtain a Commercial license. First, they are required to pass a knowledge test which requires an individual to take a general skill written test and could be required to take additional tests involving factors such as air brakes, tanks, and hazardous materials, depending on the type of truck he or she plans to drive (listed in 49 CFR 383.111(a)and (b).

They are also required to pass a skills test which consists of passing a vehicle inspection examination to show that the truck driver knows whether his or her commercial vehicle is safe to drive, and a basic control test to determine whether the trucker can control the vehicle (listed in 49 CFR 383.113 through 49 CFR 383.123).

The third test a driver is required to pass is an on-road test, which requires the individual to drive his or her commercial truck or bus safely in a variety of on-road situations. Some of the tests administered during the driving course include making left and right turns, driving near railroad crossings, navigating curves, performing U-turns, and traveling on the highway.

The final test a driver must pass to become licensed is a medical test that requires a potential operator to receive certification from an examining doctor indicating they are medically fit to drive a bus or truck. These tests include hearing, vision, blood pressure, urinalysis, physical impairments, skill performance evaluation, implied consent to an alcohol test, and prescription drugs test.

Truck Drivers Are Required to Demonstrate Basic Control of Their Vehicle

Truck drivers are required to drive the vehicle they are operating safely. They must always be able to control their truck speed and direction. Safe operation of a commercial vehicle requires skills in:

  • Accelerating.
  • Steering.
  • Stopping.
  • Braking safely.

For a truck driver to get a commercial license, he or she must be proficient in each of the above-mentioned skills and must pass tests assessing those skills. If a driver does not possess the required skills and is driving a commercial vehicle, they can put many lives in danger. When a company puts a driver behind a commercial vehicle without having the skills and an accident occurs, the victim of the accident or their surviving family members can sue the truck driver and the trucking company for damages.

What Are the Rules of The Road for Truck Drivers?

Commercial vehicle operators are required to obey standard driving laws and federal and state truck driving regulations, including:

  • Driver Logs – truck drivers are required to keep logs during every trip. Regulations state that CDL drivers can only drive for 11 hours per day, must take a 30-minute break after driving for 8 hours, and drivers cannot operate a truck if they have worked 70 hours in an 8-day schedule.
  • Maintenance Logs – trucks need to be inspected at all points, before and after each trip. This includes tire pressure and condition, fuel levels, liquid levels, air brakes, breaks, and lights.
  • Bad Weather Safety – during inclement weather, truck drivers must reduce speed by 1/3rd of the regular speed limit – commercial trucks take longer than traditional vehicles to come to a complete stop.
  • Lookout for Dangers – truck drivers are always required to keep a 360-degree view of the road, watch out for other drivers, and anticipate potential collisions.
  • Truck drivers should not drive at an excessive speed which is 15 mph or more above the posted speed limit.
  • Truck drivers should reduce speed to avoid an accident.
  • Truck Drivers must adjust their speed according to road/weather conditions.
  • Truck Driver must not exceed the speed limit in a school zone.
  • CDL holders shall not operate a CMV or non-CMV in a manner that exhibits a willful, wanton, or reckless disregard of persons or property.
  • Truck drivers should not pass a vehicle stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
  • Truck drivers shall not drive on a sidewalk.
  • Truck drivers shall not pass a school bus receiving or discharging passengers or displaying a warning not to pass.
  • Truck drivers must have a valid CDL when operating a CMV with proper classification.
  • Truck drivers must not follow a vehicle too closely and truck drivers must leave sufficient distance from being overtaken by another vehicle.
  • Truck drivers must not make improper or erratic traffic lane changes.
  • They must not pass on a hill or curve when prohibited, pass on the wrong side of the road, pass on the shoulder, left or right, drive the wrong way on a one-way street or highway, drive on the left side of the roadway, or pass in a school zone.
  • Truck drivers must not text or use a hand-held cell-phone while driving.
  • Truck drivers must also control their speed depending on driving conditions such as traction, curves, visibility, traffic, and hills.
  • Truck drivers must be familiar with each type of distance and that Perception Distance + Reaction Distance + Braking Distance = Total Stopping Distance.
  • Truck drivers are required to give space and the rule says you need at least one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length at speeds below 40 mph. At greater speeds, you must add one second for safety.
  • Truck drivers should also stay to the right as much as they can and keep their vehicle centered in the lane they are in.
  • All CMV drivers must wear their seatbelts.
  • Drivers behind Truck Drivers must be warned when they put their brakes on.
  • All trucks, truck tractors, and buses must be equipped with emergency brakes and parking brakes. Companies are required these brakes are fully functional at all times.
  • A cargo tank should never be loaded full of liquids because liquids expand as they warm and must leave room for the expanding liquid.
  • 49 CFR 383.5 requires a Commercial Driver’s License with a Hazardous Materials endorsement before one can drive any size of vehicle to transport hazardous material.
  • All drivers who drive hazardous material must be trained in the security risks of hazardous materials transportation and this training must include how to recognize and respond to possible security threats.
  • Employers must provide drivers with hazardous material training.
  • All hazardous materials packages must be secured during transportation.
  • A truck driver should never transport damaged packages of explosives.
  • The identification number of hazardous materials in portable tanks and cargo tanks and other bulk packaging must be displayed.
  • Truck drivers must never smoke within 25 feet of a cargo tank that contains flammable liquids, explosives, flammable solids, spontaneously combustibles, or gases.
  • Truck drivers who are driving a vehicle that is placarded must stop 15 to 50 feet before the nearest rail and only proceed when they are sure no train is coming and they can clear the tracks without stopping.

Speed

  • The most important consideration for truck drivers is to select a speed that is not too fast for the:
    • Total weight of the vehicle and cargo
    • Length of the grade
    • Road conditions
    • Weather
  • Truck drivers shall never exceed the “Maximum Safe Speed,” that is shown.

Accident Procedures

  • Truck drivers who are in an accident and not seriously injured drivers are required
    to prevent further damage or injury. Steps to be taken at any accident:

    • Protect the area.
    • Notify authorities
    • Care for the injured

Backing-Out Safely Rules

  • Truck drivers are required to put the vehicle in the best position to back out.
  • Truck drivers are also required to look at their line of travel before they began and should get out and walk around their vehicle to check clearance to the sides and overhead, in and near the path their vehicle will take.
  • Truck driver should use both mirrors and check them frequently and should get out of the vehicle and check their surroundings if they are unsure.
  • Truck driver should always back as slowly as possible and use the lowest reverse gear in order to easily correct steering errors and stop quickly if necessary.
  • Truck drivers should always back to the driver’s side to see better because backing toward the right side is very dangerous and can impair the site.
  • Truck drivers should also use a helper when backing out in order to compensate for blind spots.

Seeing Requirements

  • Truck drivers are required to be a safe driver and part of that is needing to know what is going on around their vehicle. Because stopping or changing lanes can take a lot of distance, knowing what the traffic is doing on all sides is important. Drivers need to look well ahead to make sure they have room to make these moves safely.
  • How Far Ahead to Look. Most good drivers look at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead. That means looking ahead the distance drivers will travel in 12 to 15 seconds. At lower speeds, it is about one block. At highway speeds, it is about one-quarter of a mile. If drivers are not looking that far ahead, they may have to stop quickly or make quick lane changes. Looking 12 to 15 seconds ahead does not mean not paying attention to things that are closer. Good drivers shift their attention back and forth, near and far.
  • Drivers should also look for vehicles coming onto the highway, and turning into their lane. Drivers should watch for brakes from slowing vehicles.
  • Truck drivers should check their mirrors regularly and more often in special situations such as lane changes, turns, merges, and tight maneuvers.

Communicating

  • Truck drivers should communicate all of their intentions. They should signal what they intend to do.

Turns

    There are three rules for using turn signals:

    1. Drivers should signal early and well before they turn.
    2. Drivers should signal continuously and both hands should be on the wheel to turn safely. Signal shall not be canceled until the turn has been completed.
    3. Lastly, drivers shall cancel their signal once the task has been completed.
  • Truck drivers should also turn on their signal before changing lanes.
  • Truck drivers should only use their horn when needed because use of horn can startle others and could be dangerous when used unnecessarily.

Truck accidents are often severe and can result in debilitating, and sometimes fatal, injuries. If a CDL driver is careless behind the wheel of a truck and crashes into another vehicle or object, the victim of the accident or their surviving family members can sue the truck driver and the trucking company for damages.

Tire Requirements

  • CMV must have at least 4/32-inch tread depth in every major groove on the front tires and at least 2/32 inch on other tires.
  • Truck drivers should make sure to get enough sleep and are recommended to get at least seven or eight hours of sleep every 24 hours.

Hazardous Materials

  • Truck drivers must follow the many rules about transporting hazardous materials.
    The intent of the rules is to:

    • Contain the product.
    • Communicate the risk.
    • Ensure safe drivers and equipment.
  • To obtain a Hazardous Material endorsement on a CDL, a driver must pass a written test about transporting hazardous materials. To pass the test, a driver must know how to:
    • Identify what are hazardous materials.
    • Safely load shipments.
    • Properly placard their vehicle in accordance with the rules.
    • Safely transport shipments.

Non-compliance with the rules can result in fines and jail time.

Hazardous Crashes/Incidents

As a professional driver, their job at the scene of a crash or an incident is to:

  • Keep people away from the scene.
  • Limit the spread of material, only if you can safely do so.
  • Communicate the danger of the hazardous materials to emergency response personnel.
  • Provide emergency responders with the shipping papers and
    emergency response information.

Transporting Cargo

Truck drivers, whether or not they load and secure cargo themselves, are responsible for:

  • Inspecting their cargo
  • Recognizing overloads and poorly balanced weight
  • Knowing their cargo is properly secured and does not obscure their view ahead or to the sides.
  • Knowing their cargo does not restrict access to emergency equipment.

Required Notification

A truck driver or their employer must phone the National Response Center when any of the following occur as a direct result of a hazardous materials incident:

  • A person is killed.
  • An injured person requires hospitalization.
  • Estimated property damage exceeds $50,000.
  • The general public is evacuated for more than one hour.
  • One or more major transportation arteries or facilities are closed for one hour or more.
  • Fire, breakage, spillage or suspected radioactive contamination occurs.
  • Fire, breakage, spillage or suspected contamination occur involving shipment of etiologic agents (bacteria or toxins).
  • A situation exists of such a nature (e.g., continuing danger to life exists at the scene of an incident) that, in the judgment of the carrier, should be reported.

Commercial Driver’s License Disqualifications

Disqualification for Major Offenses Include:

  • Being under the influence of alcohol as prescribed by State law.
  • Being under the influence of a controlled substance.
  • Having an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater while operating a CMV. Refusing to take an alcohol test as required by a State or jurisdiction under its implied consent laws or regulations.
  • Leaving the scene of an accident.
  • Using the vehicle to commit a felony, other than felonies involving manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance.

CDL Driver Disqualification for Serious Traffic Violations Include:

  • Speeding excessively, involving any speed of 15 mph or more above the regulated or posted speed limit.
  • Driving recklessly, as defined by State or local law or regulation.
  • Making improper or erratic traffic lane changes.
  • Following the vehicle ahead too closely.
  • Violating State or local law relating to motor vehicle traffic control.

CDL Driver Disqualification for Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Offenses Include:

  • The driver is not required to always stop but fails to slow down and check that tracks are clear of an approaching train.
  • The driver is not required to always stop but fails to stop before reaching the crossing if the tracks are not clear.
  • The driver is always required to stop but fails to stop before driving onto the crossing.
  • The driver fails to have sufficient space to drive completely through the crossing without stopping.
  • The driver fails to obey a traffic control device or the directions of an enforcement official at the crossing.
  • The driver fails to negotiate a crossing because of insufficient undercarriage clearance.

What Rules and Regulations Do Truck Drivers Need To Follow?

Commercial vehicle operators are required to obey standard driving laws and federal and state truck driving regulations, including:

  • Driver Logs – truck drivers are required to keep logs during every trip. Regulations state that CDL drivers can only drive for 11 hours per day, must take a 30-minute break after driving for 8 hours, and drivers cannot operate a truck if they have worked 70 hours in an 8-day schedule.
  • Maintenance Logs – trucks need to be inspected at all points, before and after each trip. This includes tire pressure and condition, fuel levels, liquid levels, air brakes, breaks, and lights.
  • Bad Weather Safety – during inclement weather, truck drivers must reduce speed by 1/3rd of the regular speed limit – commercial trucks take longer than traditional vehicles to come to a complete stop.
  • Lookout for Dangers – truck drivers are always required to keep a 360- degree view of the road, watch out for other drivers, and anticipate potential collisions. Truck accidents are often severe and can result in debilitating, and sometimes fatal, injuries. If a CDL driver is careless behind the wheel of a truck and crashes into another vehicle or object, the victim of the accident or their surviving family members can sue the truck driver and the trucking company for damages.

DID YOU KNOW: All of these regulations come from NHTSA’s analysis of truck collisions?

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