The Department of Transportation is the federal body responsible for the safety of American commercial truck operators. Truck companies that are deemed to be unsafe can be reported to the Department of Transportation, which then typically conducts an in-depth audit of the offending company and its employees.
Each year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration releases a report into the most common reasons that trucking companies had to be reported to the Department of Transportation for audit. The report released in 2021 made for some rather sobering reading. Only a very small percentage of trucking companies that were part of the report were able to pass an audit without some kind of violation being noted. The trucking industry relies upon drivers and clients reporting unsafe practices in order to become safer. Here is a roundup of the most commonly reported violations processed by the DOT and noted by the FMCSA in 2021.
Failure to Implement a DOT Approved Drug Program
Drugs and alcohol are major causes of accidents on American roads. Around 44 percent of all drivers involved in fatal accidents in the USA test positive for some kind of mind-altering substance. Alcohol is by far the most prevalent substance responsible for impaired driving.
The Department of Transportation requires that all commercial trucking operators facilitate substance testing in several scenarios. Drivers should be subjected to random testing, post-accident testing, and testing when there is a reasonable degree of suspicion that they may be driving while under the influence of a substance. Trucking companies can either turn to third-party groups to provide testing or do it themselves, so long as they report their results and carry out tests according to DOT regulations. Figures show that 35.6 percent of all violations reported to the DOT were related to companies that failed to implement an effective drug program.
Allowing Drivers to Work with Suspended CDLs
All drivers delivering goods in large vehicles must, by law, carry a valid commercial driving license. Trucking companies must report safety violations and suspend drivers that do not have valid licenses. Truck drivers without valid licenses may have had them revoked for breaking traffic laws. If, for instance, they have been found to have driven while under the influence of a mind-altering substance, they may have their commercial driving license revoked or suspended. There are severe financial penalties for companies that deliberately ignore or fail to check the license documentation of all the truckers that they employ – even on a temporary basis.
Allowing Drivers to Carry More Than One CDL
Truck drivers are only allowed to carry one commercial driving license. This is because licenses act as tracking and record-keeping documentation that the state can use to assess the overall safety record and location of a driver. Drivers that have more than one commercial driving license may be using their multiple licenses to hide previous traffic or commercial violations that would typically prevent them from operating as commercial drivers without taking new tests. States also use CDLs to track when trucks have entered and exited borders in the course of importing and exporting goods.
Maintaining an airtight knowledge of the license conditions within a company is the responsibility of that company.
Using a Vehicle That Has Not Been Adequately Inspected
Commercial motor vehicles are complex beasts. They are driven for many hours at a time very regularly in all sorts of conditions. These factors increase the amount of maintenance that is needed to keep a big rig safe. As well as receiving regular maintenance, commercial motor vehicles need to be regularly inspected. The Department of Transportation requires that all fleet operators inspect their vehicles with regularity in order to pick up on any potentially dangerous mishaps. Broken air brake lines, worn down pads, malfunctioning radiators, and cracked tires are all considered to be safety violations that need to be picked up on.
Some companies deliberately ignore the need for regular inspection in order to decrease the amount of time it takes to put a truck into service. This is considered to be a critical safety violation and entails very large fines. Some specialist vehicles (such as off-road commercial motor vehicles or cranes) require additional types of inspections to be carried out regularly. As well as the inspections carried out regularly by people inside a company, the Department of Transportation requires all companies to get their vehicles inspected by a qualified external person at least once a year.