Driving Commercial Motor Vehicles

DWI, FMCSA Proposed Rules, Hazmat Security

Three members called me in the past couple of months with drivers who were caught driving while under the influence. The questions were the same: What do I do and what should I do with the driver? In all three cases, the driver was caught while driving his personal vehicle. At the moment, this makes all the difference in the world. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations only apply to drivers while driving commercial motor vehicles.

Rick Schweitzer wrote a paper titled, “What To Do When a Driver Tests Positive for Illegal Use of Drugs or Alcohol,” which can be found in Tab 22 of the NWSA DOT Compliance Manual as Appendix P. This is an excellent article that should be read before you get a driver that tests positive. If your driver is caught while driving a vehicle that is not a commercial motor vehicle, then the main issue is whether the driver has lost his ability to drive, i.e. lost his driver’s license.

Develop a Policy Before You Need It
Your company’s policy should be written to address how you will handle drivers when caught while driving your commercial motor vehicle or their personal vehicle. The two main points are that you treat all employees equally and that you have your policy written before you need it.

If you have union employees, remember to check the collective bargaining agreement. If the collective agreement conflicts with the requirements of the DOT rules, the DOT rules supercede the terms of the agreement to the extent that they conflict.

One of the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) proposed rule changes would penalize the CDL-licensed driver the same for driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances while driving a non-commercial motor vehicle as if he was driving a commercial motor vehicle. The idea is that a CDL driver should be held to a higher standard than an ordinary driver.

Proposed Rule Slowdown
The FMCSA is under renewed pressure from Congress to take aggressive action to eliminate the backlog of more than a dozen overdue rules. The FMCSA was created on Dec. 9, 1999 partly because members of Congress felt the former Office of Motor Carriers had failed to do an effective job of issuing new truck safety regulations. The FMCSA has issued only seven final rules since its inception. It has failed to meet 14 mandatory deadlines set by Congress. Joseph M. Clapp, the new FMCSA administrator, has said, “Many new rules in the pipeline are beginning to reach the end of the pipeline. We will have a lot of new rules coming out in the middle of this year.” The events of last September 11 have slowed down the new rules because of all the extra focus on security issues.


FMCSA has issued only seven final rules since its inception and has failed to meet 14 mandatory deadlines set by Congress.


Some of the proposed new rules govern the number of hours a truck driver is allowed to work each day, the issuance of commercial driver licenses, minimum requirements for trucking company applicants, procedures for truck safety pilot programs, and safety performance records of prospective drivers.

Hazmat Security Visits
Hazmat security continues to be a hot topic of discussion. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is busy wrapping up its “security sensitivity visits” (SSVs) to all hazardous materials carriers. They visited over 38,800 carrier facilities. The SSVs uncovered 280 findings of suspicious activities, with 126 referrals to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FMCSA sent the FBI reports of false personal information, citizenship irregularities, unexplained disappearances, employees on the FBI watch list, and previous employment irregularities.

The FMCSA reported that it would continue to periodically visit carriers transporting certain explosives, radioactive materials and highly toxic substances. In addition, security would be a major element in each of the future compliance reviews the FMCSA field staff conducts at carrier facilities.

The agency said that the security visits did take inspectors away from their normal compliance visits. The agency examined 800 carriers in the last quarter of 2001 as compared with 2,992 visits in 1999. I still feel that once the security visits are over, they will be back in force to do compliance audits at facilities of concern that were found during the security visits.

As always, Rick Schweitzer and I will be here to help our membership understand and comply with any new rule changes that come out. Stay tuned.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Meet the Author
Michael Dodd is GAWDA DOT consultant and president of MLD Safety Associates in Dripping Springs, Texas.