Driver Infractions Sometimes Elusive

July 1, 1999
AS THOUGH driver retention wasn't enough of a problem for tank truck carriers, they have to contend with drivers who may be able to obtain a commercial

AS THOUGH driver retention wasn't enough of a problem for tank truck carriers, they have to contend with drivers who may be able to obtain a commercial driver license (CDL) in one state after they have had one withdrawn by another state for driving infractions.

Some states have a program that allows companies to register drivers so that employers will be notified if a driver is ticketed, but there are many that do not. All of these situations make it difficult for employers to be confident they are hiring legal and safe drivers.

These issues and others related to drivers were analyzed by Deborah Jaeger, vice-president for business development, and Sean Doherty, chief executive officer, both of TML Information Services Inc. The Forest Hills, New York, company was contracted by the Federal Highway Administration Office of Motor Carriers (FHWA/OMC) to conduct a commercial driver license effectiveness study.

Carriers also may be deceived by drivers who have received speeding tickets, but were lucky enough to have the logged charge reduced, usually to "failure to appear." Only California has the underlying charge added to drivers' records, said Jaeger.

"A failure-to-appear citation on a driver's record should be a red flag for the employer," she added. At the same time, other traffic offenses may seem to indicate that the driver committed them while at the wheel of a passenger car even though they occurred in a commercial truck.

Overloaded court dockets don't encourage judges and police to pursue traffic cases. "Law enforcement just wasn't well informed of the situation," Jaeger said.

The police officer is the principal source for the vehicle and driver data necessary for proper court procedure of the citation and proper use of a resultant conviction, according to the study. Little has been done to make data collection easier and less troublesome for enforcement officers.

Jaeger pointed out that speeding tickets are the most numerous driver citations issued, followed by alcohol-related tickets. The statistics indicated that 11% of drivers who are stopped by police do not have a current CDL. "Those are the dangerous drivers," she said. One recommendation of the study calls for FHWA/OMC to develop a formal process for ongoing review, assessment, correction, and continuous improvement of state implementation of the CDL program. The OMC should consider training staff in its national, regional, and state offices as CDL specialists to provide ongoing oversight and assistance to the states.

The recommendations include giving FHWA/OMC the authority to establish a range of sanctions for use with states that have a problem complying with CDL program requirements. The FHWA should explore alternatives to expand the trucking industry's active participation in the CDL program to develop a joint industry and government plan to address drivers who continue to operate during a disqualification period.

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