Ask The Law® – May 2017

Questions about Train Horns, CMV Height Standards & More Answered by Law Enforcement Officials (as of May 2017)

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

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EQUIPPING A CMV WITH A TRAIN HORN

Q: Are train horns legal to have on the truck but illegal to use, or are they illegal all-together? Thanks – Jason in Texas

A: Provided by Jim Brokaw, formerly a Staff Sergeant, Nebraska State Patrol, Carrier Enforcement Division, Lincoln, NE: 49 CFR 393.81 specifies horn requirements for CMVs. The regulation and its two guidance questions are as follows: “393.81 Horn. Every bus, truck, truck tractor, and every driven motor vehicle in driveaway-towaway operations shall be equipped with a horn and actuating elements which shall be in such condition as to give an adequate and reliable warning signal. Interpretation Question 1: Do the FMCSRs specify what type of horn is to be used on a CMV? Guidance: No. Interpretation Question 2: Are there established criteria in the FMCSRs to determine the minimum sound level of horns on CMVs? Guidance: No.” Nebraska state statute 60-6,285 addresses horn requirements and prohibited acts at our state level. It requires every motor vehicle operated on the highway to be equipped with a horn in good working order capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than 200 feet, but it doesn’t specify horn type – air vs. electric. Under this statute, it is also unlawful to make any unnecessary or unreasonably loud or harsh sound by means of a horn. Using the train horn could also be classed as disturbing the peace under state law and most city ordinances. I can see how this might also be a safety violation of 49 CFR 392.2, which requires drivers to comply with local laws, but I’m not aware of anything making it an out-of-service violation. So, it would appear to me under Nebraska law, you can equip a truck with a train horn, you just can’t ever use it.

THE HEIGHT STANDARDS FOR A CMV

Q: I need to find where the written code is for overhead power lines, and also how the DOT came up with the tractor-trailer height to be standard at 13’-6” in overall height from the pavement to roof? Thank you – Ray in New Jersey

A: Provided by Sgt. Pete Camm (Ret.), California Highway Patrol, Sacramento, CA: According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) there is not a federal height standard for trucks. Most states adopted 13’-6” as a standard, but some western states allow 14’. The organization “American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials” (AASHTO) is a semi-quasi agency that publishes standards for highway construction. Its members include the transportation departments of the states. This organization has been around since about 1914 and has worked under its current name since about 1975. They have a bunch of guidelines that are available for sale on the Internet. The National Electric Code (NEC) establishes electrical standards for the United States. The NEC standard for utility lines crossing a highway is 18’. NEC standards are not laws or regulations, however, many states adopt NEC’s standards.

USING THE SPLIT SLEEPER BERTH RULE

Q: When I split my sleeper berth time, does the first part of the split have to be 8 hours or 2 hours? Thank you for the help – Mark in Ohio

A: Provided by Senior Trooper Monty Dial (Ret.), Texas Highway Patrol, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, Garland, TX: This has long been debated that because the example shown in the DOT Regulations Part 395.1 shows the 8-hour break first, followed by the 2-hour break, that that is the only way you can use the split sleeper berth provision. There is no truth to that. It doesn’t matter which comes first, as long as you have a sleeper berth break that is at least 8 hours and no more than 10 hours, and another break that is at least 2 hours but less than 10 hours, either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or a combination of sleeper berth and off duty. Just remember that the shorter break is going to count against your 14 total duty hours, while the 8-hour sleeper berth break stops your 14 total duty hours. Also, remember that the driving hours on each side of either break cannot exceed 11 hours total before stopping and taking the next break. The only way to re-establish a full 11 hours driving or 14 hours total duty time is immediately following a complete 10-hour break.

FINDING THE CA VEHICLE CODES ONLINE

Q: How can I look up the California Vehicle Codes on the Internet? Thank you for your time and help in advance – Jerry in California

A: Provided by Officer Jaime Nunez, California Highway Patrol, Commercial Vehicle Section, Sacramento, CA: Access to the California Vehicle Codes (CVC) is available online at www.dmv.ca.gov. Additionally, Title 13 of the California Code of Regulations (T13 CCR), contains regulations which further define the statutory laws found in the CVC. An online version of T13 CCR is at www.oal.ca.gov.

~ 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 April 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.