Federal agencies that regulate the trucking industry

Transportation regulations are issued by three different organizations: the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). New rules for truck drivers might come from any of these three agencies each year. States may also issue their own regulations.

Hours of Service

Truck drivers are only allowed to drive so many hours before taking a break or getting some sleep. The term “Hours of Service” refers to the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be on duty including driving time, and specifies the number and length of rest periods, to help assure that drivers stay awake and alert. The FMCSA regulates the number of hours truckers are permitted to drive within a certain amount of time. One of the most crucial rules is the 14-hour driving window, which limits commercial drivers from driving more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period. Once the 14-hour period ends, a truck driver shall go off duty for 10 consecutive hours.

Drivers are also limited to 60 to 70 hours of duty in a period of 7 or 8 days. If a trucking company does not operate vehicles 7 days per week, then company drivers cannot drive commercial vehicles for more than 60 hours in 7 consecutive days. If the company operates vehicles 7 days per week, drivers are not permitted to drive commercial vehicles after being on duty for 70 hours in 8 consecutive days. Moreover, trucks are required to take a 30-minute break within the first 8 hours of their shift.

Penalties for Violating Hours of Service Rules

Drivers could be placed on shutdown (along the roadside) until they have added enough off-duty time to be back at work. State and local law enforcement officials may also issue fines.

Federal criminal penalties can be brought against carriers who knowingly and willfully allow or require violations; or against drivers who knowingly and willfully breach the regulations.

Motor Vehicle Inspection

FMCSR § 396 requires periodic inspection of commercial motor vehicles to ensure the vehicles are safe to operate. During the checkup, the following items must be inspected:

  • Service Brakes
  • Wheels
  • Windshield Wipers
  • Rims
  • Steering column
  • Windshield Glazing
  • Service Brakes
  • Windshield Wipers
  • Rims
  • Tires
  • Safety devices
  • Vacuum systems
  • Suspension
  • Lights and reflectors

Commercial drivers are needed to complete daily inspection reports when they finish driving for the day. The report shall identify the vehicle and list any problems that came up during the inspection. Motor carriers must accredit that all defects have been repaired.

Alcohol and Drug Testing

The DOT drug tests require testing for the drugs listed below:

  • Cocaine
  • Phencyclidine
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamines and amphetamines
  • Opiates

DOT Medical Exams

The DOT may ask drivers about the following medical issues:

  • Head and brain injuries
  • Eye problems
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attacks
  • Implantable medical devices
  • Hearing problems
  • Epilepsy/seizures
  • Heart diseases
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fainting
  • High blood pressure
  • Respiratory problems
  • Kidney disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Dizziness
  • Strokes

The drivers shall be medically qualified to drive the vehicle safely and do safety checkups before and after the trip, secure the load, and confirm it has not moved. Specific Medically Disqualifying Conditions are vision loss, hearing loss, insulin use, and epilepsy.