Operation of the Commercial Motor Vehicle: Introduction
Having properly qualified its drivers, dealt with controlled substance and alcohol testing issues, and confirming they each hold the proper CDL, the motor carrier must thereafter ensure they comply with the regulations governing the actual operation of its CMVs. These regulations include some of the most critical aspects of CMV operation. In a number of instances, the rules impose duties on drivers, and hence the motor carriers that employ them, beyond that of a non-CMV driver. The FMCSA has specifically stated that the FMCSRs may impose a higher degree of care than State law, and further provide that the FMCSRs prevail when there is any conflict between the two.
The CMV operation rules are found in part 392. This part is applicable to “[e]very motor carrier, its officers, agents, representatives, and employees responsible for the management, maintenance, operation, or driving of commercial motor vehicles, or the hiring, supervising, training, assigning, or dispatching of drivers.” 49 C.F.R. § 392.1 (“Scope of the rules in this part”). The FMCSA requires that all such persons “shall be instructed in and comply with the rules in this part.” The implications of the broad application of Part 392 and the duty to instruct are both apparent and enormous
Fatigue and Illness: Overview
Fatigue is often a key factor in a truck wreck case. A driver who is pressed by the motor carrier to complete a delivery, possibly with his job on the line, poses a threat to other motorists. Literally thousands of wrecks result from just that type of situation. See Catherine Spain, The Long and Lonely Road: The Saga of the Recent Amendments to the Hours of Service Regulations, 35 Transp.L.J. 47 (2008). The regulations attempt to quell the occurrence of fatigue-related injuries and deaths by imposing various duties on both the driver and motor carrier. These duties may be exceedingly important in a case where, for example, the motor carrier uses forced dispatch and does not track the driver’s hours of service carefully.
It is important to look for a link with other regulations, the violation of which caused the fatigue. For example, was the driver fatigued because he was hung over from a late night out partying, and thus possibly had a BAC over .04 at the time of a wreck? While fatigue that results from a violation of the hours of service rules is the more well-known issue, driver illness is an important concern, as well. The regulations for operating a CMV address that topic, as well.
Ill or Fatigued Driver
1. No driver shall operate, and no motor carrier shall permit a driver to operate, a CMV while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe to begin or continue to operate a CMV.
2. However, in a case of “grave emergency,” where the hazard to occupants of a CMV or other users of the highway would be increased by complying with the regulation, the CMV driver may continue to drive to the nearest safe place.