Combination Vehicles, Tankers, Hazardous Materials, and School Buses
While less uncommon than those involving 18-wheelers, cases involving combination vehicles with more than one trailer, tankers, or school buses do arise. These vehicles are often heavier and longer than a typical vehicle, and in the case of tankers, frequently contain hazardous materials, i.e., gasoline. Sections 6-10 address some of the more significant considerations involved in operating these types of vehicles, such as the “crack the whip” effect of a vehicle with a trailer (more pronounced in multi-trailer combinations) (See Sections 6.1.2, 7.1.2) and techniques for avoiding accidents and injuries. (See e.g., Sections 9.7.4, 10.1, 10.2). Again, useful diagrams are given to illustrate many aspects of combination vehicle problems, such as jackknifing. (Section 6.1.5, Figure 6.2)
Sections 6 and 7 include step-by-step instruction on the proper procedures for coupling and uncoupling various combinations. (See Sections 6.4 and 7.2). The Manual also makes the point that two and three-trailer combinations become increasingly subject to instability and overturn. (Section 7.1) Section 7 also details additional air brake checks needed when pulling multiple trailers. (Section 7.4).
Section 8 deals with tankers and notes that such vehicles routinely have a higher center of gravity than other CMVs due to the positioning of the tank and the danger of “surge,” i.e., when a liquid in a partially-full tank moves in reaction to a vehicle maneuver such as rapid deceleration. (Section 8.2.1, 8.2.2).
Although hazardous materials are beyond the scope of this book, they are addressed in considerable detail in Section 9 of the Manual. Note that a special endorsement to the CDL is required in order to transport hazardous materials. (See 49 CFR § 383.83(a),(b)(4); see also 49 CFR 383.121 “Requirements for hazardous materials endorsement”). Additional training is required for transporting certain loads, such as flammable gas or radioactive materials. (See 49 CFR 383.119 “Requirements for tank vehicle endorsement”, 383.121 “Requirements for hazardous materials endorsement”, 397.1-397.19). If you are dealing with a case involving hazardous materials, expert guidance is likely necessary.
School buses, addressed in Section 10 of the Manual, also require specialized knowledge on the part of the driver. For example, knowledge of use of an inside mirror is tested. (See Section 10.1.6). School bus stop, loading, and drop-off procedures are also subject to testing. (See Section 10.2). If counsel is representing a client in an incident that occurred during a school bus stop, it may not be just the other motorist who was at fault. The driver of the school bus should be examined regarding compliance with stopping procedures as well.
Pre-Trip Inspection, Basis Vehicle Control Skills, Test, and On-Road Driving
Section 11 of the Manual outlines the pre-trip inspection procedure that a CDL candidate must follow. The candidate must be able to physically perform the test under the scrutiny of the examiner, identify each part inspected, and tell the examiner the purpose of each component of the test. This may be used as a template for driver deposition in an appropriate case. Certainly not every aspect of the test is relevant in a given case, but judiciously placing the truly relevant inquiries within a wider field of questions pertaining to pre-trip inspection should not be difficult. The components tested are extensive and the particular version of the test administered is selected at a random. Therefore, in practice, a test of the depth described in the Manual is rarely if ever conducted.
The basic vehicle control skills test, also known as the off-road test, is covered in Section 12. Failure to pass the skills test terminates the licensing exam. (See Section 12.1) Testing is conducted on straight line backing, (See Section 12.1.1) offset back/right and left, (See Section 12.2.2, 12.2.3) parallel parking (conventional and driver side), (See Section 12.2.4, 12.2.5) and alley docking. (See Section 12.2.6) These tests are designed to be conducted in a controlled environment before the driver is taken on the road for the on-road test.
The on-road test is the final component of the CDL process, and is covered in Section 13 of the Manual. It requires a candidate driving with an examiner to demonstrate safe operation of a CMV over the course of a test route. It is the equivalent of the “check ride” that a prospective pilot must pass before he can fly with a passenger. The test involves negotiation of turns, (See Section 13.1.1) intersections, (See Section 13.1.2) urban/rural straight driving, (See Section 13.1.3) lane changes, (See Section 13.1.4) expressway operation, (See Section 13.1.5) starting and stopping, (See Section 13.1.6) curves, (See Section 13.1.7) railroad crossing, (See Section 13.1.8) brake usage, (See Section 13.1.13) lane usage, (See Section 13.1.14)bridge/overpass/sign recognition,(See Section 13.1.9) steering, (See Section 13.1.15)traffic checks, (See Section 13.1.16) and turn signal usage (See Section 13.1.17). A driver who fails to properly operate a CMV and causes a crash should be asked whether he passed that element of the road test at issue in a given case. Again, the wide spectrum of tested areas may furnish a template for the deposition examination of a driver or defense expert.