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5 common roadside violations & how to avoid them

Updated: Oct 4, 2021


Roadside inspections can be nerve-racking for even the most seasoned drivers. Violations stemming from those inspections can follow drivers throughout their careers, making it difficult for them to find work. And violations also negatively impact motor carriers’ safety scores, which can lead to enforcement action such as an audit.

FMCSA's List of Top Driver Violations

Fortunately, some of the most common violations discovered during roadside inspections are simple to fix and avoid in the first place. In this article, we’ll take a look at five common driver-related violations and the steps drivers and carriers can take to prevent them from occurring.



1. False Report of Duty Status (False Log)

First up on our list of five common roadside violations is false report of duty status, which comes in as the third most common driver-related violation behind only speeding and failing to obey traffic signals. False reports of duty status, also called false logs, can be a serious problem because they can be used for nefarious purposes such as concealing hours-of-service violations. The point of the hours-of-service regulations is to keep fatigued drivers off the roadways and prevent fatigue-related accidents, so the falsification of logs, which are the means by which commercial drivers keep track of their duty status, is an end runaround the substantive hours-of-service rules.


For this reason, you can understand why the DOT takes log falsification so seriously. In fact, log falsification is a big reason why we now have electronic logging devices, which are designed to cut down on false logs by automatically recording when the vehicle is in motion.


Regardless, false logs are still a problem in the industry, both for drivers who remain on paper logs, and also those on ELDs. Although the DOT doesn’t really do so, I like to make a distinction between deliberately falsified logs and those that are falsified due to a driver’s misunderstanding of the hours-of-service rules. In my experience, it’s this latter category of log falsifications that tend to be more prevalent. And I’ll go one step further to say that the majority of log falisifications we see during roadside inspections these days are due to a driver’s misuse of personal conveyance status.


We’ve addressed the prickly subject of personal conveyance status in another article, so we won’t get into the weeds here. Sufficed to say, drivers and carriers should take care to read through and understand the FMCSA’s guidance on the topic and ensure they are not using that status improperly. Doing so will lead to false log violations, which weigh heavily on the driver’s and carrier’s safety scores. Another common mistake that leads to log falsifications include things like logging fueling time as “off duty” rather than “on-duty, not driving.”


In short, drivers need to ensure they fully understand the hours-of-service rules, including things like duty status and personal conveyance, so they don’t inadvertently end up with false log violations. To this end, be sure to check out our comprehensive, online hours-of-training course over at trucksafeacademy.com. And they certainly should not be attempting to conceal hours-of-service violations by deliberately falsifying their logs. This will inevitably come back to bite them, typically in the form of violations stemming from roadside inspections. But they should be aware that falsifying logs can lead to criminal penalties.


For carriers, we recommend they have a detailed personal conveyance policy in place, making clear when drivers can and cannot log their driving time as personal conveyance. If you need assistance drafting such a policy, feel free to contact us. Also, carriers should be periodically auditing their drivers records of duty status and taking appropriate remedial measures against drivers who falsify their logs.


2. Operating a CMV Without a CDL


Operating a commercial vehicle without a CDL when one is required is routinely on the list of top 5 driver-related violations discovered by law enforcement during roadside inspections. These often occur because drivers and/or their carriers either aren’t familiar with the thresholds that require a CDL or are not properly tracking the weights of their vehicles.


In another article, we took a deep-dive into the CDL requirements. Generally speaking, commercial drivers who operate the following types of vehicles in interstate or intrastate commerce are required to hold a CDL: (i) a vehicle having a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 26,001 lbs. or more; (ii) a combination of vehicles having a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) or gross combination weight (GCW) of 26,001 lbs. or more, inclusive of a towed unit with a GVWR or GVW of more than 10,000 lbs.; (iii) a vehicle designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver); and (iv) a vehicle of any size used to transport placardable quantities of hazardous materials.

Drivers and carriers need to understand these weight and commodity thresholds and ensure drivers aren’t jumping in vehicles that require a CDL when they do not hold one. Also, it’s a fairly common occurrence for a driver to add a heavy trailer to a power unit that, by itself, would not require a CDL; however, the addition of the trailer pushes the combination above the 26,001 lb. threshold, and therefore requires a CDL. So the takeaway here is that carriers and drivers need to be careful with their vehicle weights and understand that exceeding the 26,001 lb. threshold will require a CDL.


Lastly, it’s important to remember that states will take action to downgrade a CDL holder’s license to a standard operator’s license in certain situations, such as failing to renew a medical card, failing to pay child support, and failing to appear for a court date. In these cases, the state will typically send notice to the driver, but the driver may not always receive that notice. This results in the driver continuing to operate CDL-sized vehicles with a license that has been downgraded, which will inevitably lead to violations. For this reason, drivers and carriers need to keep close track of license status, and carriers should consider enrolling in a continuous license monitoring service to receive automatic notifications when/if a driver’s license is downgraded.


3. ELD Form & Manner Violation


Some of the most frustrating violations that stem from roadside inspections are those that are so simple to fix. That’s the case with so-called “form and manner” violations. These are technical violations that arise from a driver’s failure to complete all the required fields on their record of duty status, whether it’s paper or electronic. Most often, form and manner violations stem from the driver’s failure to input the trailer and/or shipping details on the log, both of which are required.


Section 395.8(d) of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations details exactly what information must appear on every log:


(1) Date;

(2) Total miles driving today;

(3) Truck or tractor and trailer number;

(4) Name of carrier;

(5) Driver's signature/certification;

(6) 24-hour period starting time (e.g. midnight, 9:00 a.m., noon, 3:00 p.m.);

(7) Main office address;

(8) Remarks;

(9) Name of co-driver;

(10) Total hours (far right edge of grid); and

(11) Shipping document number(s), or name of shipper and commodity.


Failing to include any one of these required fields will result in a form & manner violation. Drivers should take care to review their logs each day to ensure they are complete and accurate. They should also be sure to certify each day’s log. For their part, carriers should be auditing driver logs to ensure drivers are completing them.


4. No Blank Logs


The ELD mandate originally went into effect in 2016. Prior to that time, drivers were required to keep track of their duty status each day on paper logs. Now that ELD mandate is in effect, most drivers are required to track their duty status using ELDs that are integrally synchronized with their vehicle’s engine.


As with all technology, ELDs are susceptible to occasional outages and malfunctions. With that in mind, the FMCSA wanted to have a backup plan in place for drivers in the event their ELD device quit working. Specifically, the regulations require drivers to have a blank supply of paper logs in their vehicles at all times. More specifically, they must have at least 8 days’ worth of paper logs with them to use in the event their ELD device malfunctions.


Why 8 days? Well, 8 days is the maximum time frame that drivers can operate without an ELD in the event of a malfunction. After the 8th day, the device must be fixed or replaced.


In sum, drivers need to make sure they have at least 8 days’ worth of blank logs with them at all times and can present them to law enforcement during a roadside inspection upon demand.


5. Missing ELD Instruction/Transfer Manual


Another exceedingly common ELD-related violation drivers and carriers encounter during roadside inspections is a missing ELD instruction and/or transfer manual. Fortunately, this is another violation that is easy to correct and avoid.


The ELD regulations say that drivers must have a copy of their ELD instruction manual, as well as instructions on how to use their device to electronically transfer logs to law enforcement, with them in the cab of their vehicle. These instruction sheets can be in printed or electronic form. In fact, many ELD providers build electronic versions of these manuals into their devices, which drivers can access on the devices themselves.


More and more, officers will ask drivers to present these manuals as a matter of course during roadside inspections. And if drivers can’t find them or access them on their device, it will inevitably lead to violations. To avoid this, drivers should either have printed copies of their manuals in a place that’s easily accessible during an inspection or should know how to access the electronic versions of those manuals if they are available on their ELDs.


Conclusion


Many of the most commonly discovered driver-related violations are simple to correct and avoid. Carriers should spend time with their drivers to discuss these violations and steps to take to avoid them. And drivers should take care to understand and internalize these requirements.


If you’re interested in more in-depth training on the federal safety regulations, be sure to check out our state-of-the-art, online training courses for safety managers and drivers over at trucksafeacademy.com.

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