Ask The Law® – April 2017

Questions about Understanding English, Checking ABS & More Answered by Law Enforcement Officials (as of April 2017)

Warning: Laws are subject to change without notice.
These interpretations were made on March 14, 2017.

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UNDERSTANDING ENGLISH IN A CMV

Q: My friend was put out-of-service (OOS) for not understanding English and the officer only asked him one question: “What year were you born?” When he answered “Vietnam” the officer put him OOS. Can a CMV driver be put OOS for this misunderstanding? This happened in Georgia and we are from California, so we were not familiar with the officer’s accent, as well. Thank you – Chien in California

A: Provided by Officer Jaime Nunez, California Highway Patrol, Commercial Vehicle Section, Sacramento, CA: Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 391.11(b)(2), requires a driver be able to communicate in English. The rule does not clearly provide a method for determining sufficient communication skills. The Georgia State Patrol would need to be contacted directly to inquire on the specifics as to why the driver was placed OOS and what policies are in place in their state regarding placing a commercial driver out-of-service for a communication issue.

CHECKING THE ABS SYSTEM ON A TRAILER

Q: How do you correctly check the ABS system on your trailer? I don’t see my ABS light working on my trailer. Thank you – Bill in Wisconsin

A: Provided by Jim Brokaw, formerly a Staff Sergeant, Nebraska State Patrol, Carrier Enforcement Division, Lincoln, NE: You didn’t mention how old your tractor and trailer are, so I’m guessing both were manufactured after March 1, 2001. If they’re older than that, the procedure will be somewhat different. According to “ABS: Look Before They Lock” an informational flyer produced for “Operation Airbrake” by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), to check your trailer’s ABS, you begin with your ignition off. Turn your key on and watch that both the trailer dash-mounted ABS malfunction lamp and the trailer-mounted ABS malfunction lamp turn on. After just a few seconds, both lamps should go out. Anything else indicates a defect in the trailer’s ABS and that it is in need of some attention.

STOPPING YOUR RIG ON RAILROAD TRACKS

Q: One of my weekly stops requires me to cross some busy railroad tracks and then immediately come to a stop sign. If I stop at the stop sign, my 53’ trailer blocks all the tracks. I’ve had some close calls here, and usually just roll through the stop to avoid catastrophe. Going another way is not an option. Got any advice? Thanks – Larry in California.

A: Provided by Sgt. Pete Camm (Ret.), California Highway Patrol, Sacramento, CA: Your scenario is the subject of catch-22 debates within the commercial and law enforcement communities since the mid-1990s. After several highly-publicized CMV vs. train collisions, the FHWA, OMC conducted a study whereas each state was supposed to submit diagrams of any problematic railroad highway grade crossings. A number of towns grew up around railroads and many built dirt stagecoach/wagon roads paralleling tracks. Stagecoach roads morphed into current-day paved roads during the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. Stagecoaches and horses are not nearly as long as CMVs towing 53’ (or longer) trailers, and CMVs are much longer today than in the middle of the 1900s. While I cannot condone breaking any law, common sense from both commercial drivers’ and law enforcement’s standpoint is a mutual solution, for now.

INTERRUPTING A 10-HOUR REST PERIOD

Q: I have a route I run three times a week. I go on the same route every time. My dispatch time is 11:00 p.m. My boss wants me to call-in between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. to let him know I will be at work. Can he make me call-in while I am on my 10-hour break? Thank you – Garry in Texas

A: Provided by Senior Trooper Monty Dial (Ret.), Texas Highway Patrol, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, Garland, TX: A lot is going to depend on what type of answer you want. There is an interpretation (Question #30) found in Part 395.3 that deals with drivers having to constantly respond to satellite or other similar communications while taking their rest break. The interpretation states that a driver has to be on-duty not driving to respond to those messages. There are also two other interpretations (Question #5 and #6) that deal with a driver having to contact or carry a pager/beeper to be able to contact the motor carrier during their rest break. Neither of these two interpretations state that it breaks the driver’s rest period. Another way to look at the answer is from the eyes of the motor carrier. You do not make a run every day and the motor carrier has a load that needs to be delivered. All they are asking is for you to make a telephone call to let them know if you are going to be able to make the run. If you cannot, then they need enough time to locate another driver to take your scheduled run. So, taking a minute or less to call the motor carrier would not interrupt your ability to obtain the required rest.

~ The Ask The Law™ programs are an ongoing educational effort between Ol’ Blue, USA™ and commercial law enforcement agencies. Ol’ Blue, USA is a non-profit organization dedicated to highway safety education and to improving relations between the motoring public, law enforcement and commercial drivers. “Ask The Law” is a registered trademark of Ol’ Blue, USA. This column is copyrighted© by Ol’ Blue, USA. Warning: Laws are subject to change without notice. These interpretations were made on March 14, 2017.

About Ol' Blue, USA TM

Ol’ Blue, USATM is a non-profit organization dedicated to highway safety education and to improving relations between the motoring public, law enforcement and commercial drivers. The Ask The LawTM programs are an ongoing educational effort between Ol’ Blue, USA and commercial law enforcement agencies. “Ask The Law” is a registered trademark of Ol’ Blue, USA. This column is copyrighted by Ol’ Blue, USA.