Commercial vehicles provide numerous citizens with great job opportunities. However, becoming a commercial driver is no easy feat since the massive weight and size of those vehicles can be extremely dangerous to many people in the event of a collision.
As such, commercial drivers need to follow certain rules and regulations imposed by the state of Georgia and the federal government to ensure their safety and the well-being of other people around them.
Commercial Motor Vehicles to Which the Rules Apply
First of all, you need to understand that two sets of rules may be imposed on a commercial vehicle: the state’s regulations or federal regulations.
To elaborate, if a vehicle operates only within the state’s borders, then it’s only subject to Georgia law. However, interstate trucks that cross the state borders for interstate commerce follow the regulations set by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration).
Still, what are the types of vehicles that these federal law regulations fall upon? While most people imagine a semi-truck when thinking of a commercial vehicle, many other vehicles fall in this category, according to FMCRA and the state of Georgia. These include any vehicle that:
- Has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross combined vehicle rating (GCVR) of more than 10,000 pounds.
- Transports more than 15 passengers (driver included) for no charge or compensation.
- Transports more than 8 passengers (driver included) for a price.
- Moves a placard, requiring a quantity of hazardous materials, regardless of its GVWR.
So, trucks, busses, vans, fire trucks, construction vehicles, logging trucks, garbage trucks, and similar municipal vehicles are all considered commercial motor vehicles in Georgia.
And if your vehicle is for business/commercial use and weighs over 10,000 pounds, all of Georgia’s DOT regulations apply to you when driving intrastate, whether you have a CDL or not. If you don’t comply with any of the rules, you’ll be punished by fines, driving constraints, and other harsh penalties.
Commercial Truck Drivers Rules and Regulations
Generally, Georgia applies the regulations of the FMCSA on all commercial vehicles. And it isn’t just the commercial drivers that have to follow all these rules. To elaborate, the trucking companies that employ the drivers are also responsible for following them, and both will be liable in an accident.
First things first, before anyone can become a commercial vehicle driver, they must have a clean criminal record and an excellent driving history. In addition, all commercial drivers have to get both a U.S DOT number and a vehicle identification number.
Furthermore, they need to provide a complete health history and pass the Georgia Department of Transportation medical examination to get a medical certificate. This two-year certificate indicates that no physical or mental health issue will affect their ability to drive a commercial vehicle safely.
Now, let’s look at the interstate and intrastate trucking regulations that a driver must follow.
1. Duty Hours
Typically, the hours of service imposed by FMCSA are only applied to the long-haul drivers. However, in Georgia, these hours also apply to short-haul drivers and depend on whether you’re transporting passengers or goods. In general, drivers can’t be for more than 60-70 hours in seven or eight days, respectively.
If you’re moving cargo, then your duty hours cannot be more than 14 hours, of which you can’t drive more than 11 straight hours. Also, you have to be off-duty for 10 hours, at the very minimum, before you resume. Additionally, all Georgia drivers must take at least a 30-minute break after being on duty for 8 hours.
Alternatively, if you’re transporting passengers, you can’t be on duty for more than 15 consecutive hours, after which you have to be off-duty for 8 hours. Also, you’re only allowed to drive for 10 straight hours.
2. Log Keeping
All drivers and employers must maintain accurate logbooks detailing a driver’s duty status for the past six months. Both long and short-haul drivers need to record the times they went on duty, took breaks, began driving, stopped driving, and went off-duty. They’re also required to write the miles they drove for the day.
3. Testing for Substances
Since all commercial vehicle drivers, full-time and part-time, can’t drive under the influence, they can and will be subjected to alcohol and drug testing. In addition, the state may implement testing rules before a new driver operates a vehicle. However, drug tests may also occur randomly and at other times that require it, such as after an accident.
4. Maintenance and Safety Inspections
Before and after driving, all drivers must inspect the parts of their commercial vehicles, such as the service brakes, windshield wipers, and more. They also must conduct annual vehicle inspections. If any problems are found, truck maintenance is a must before the vehicle gets on the road again.
5. Insurance Coverage
Intrastate drivers are required to have minimum insurance coverage in case of a commercial vehicle accident. At the very least, this amounts to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. However, most drivers carry from $1 to $5 million to cover the severe injuries in truck accidents. Surprisingly, certain commercial vehicles types are required to have even more liability protection coverage.
This way, the victims of commercial vehicle accidents can look for compensation from the driver or motor carrier’s insurance company. And if the accident is neither of their faults, the third party responsible for the accident must provide full and fair compensation.
6. Other Regulations
Additional rules that commercial vehicle drivers must follow include:
- Obeying state traffic laws and speed limits
- Not driving when alertness or driving ability isn’t optimal due to tiredness or sickness
- Safely distributing and securing cargo
- Not using mobile devices while driving
- Placing warning devices when stopping on the road
- Pausing before crossing railroad tracks
- Having a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and the required endorsements if the vehicle has a GCVR of more than 26,000 pounds, transports hazardous materials, or carries more than 15 passengers
All vehicles used for commerce and have a gross vehicle weight of over 10,000 pounds are subject to the Georgia DOT regulations.
Overall, the Georgia law for commercial vehicles is similar to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules. Accordingly, all commercial motor vehicle drivers must keep accurate logs, complete daily inspection reports, and not exceed the hours of service.