Questions about Headlight Use, CMV Height Standards & More Answered by Law Enforcement Officials (as of October 2015)
Warning: Laws are subject to change without notice.
These interpretations were made on September 14, 2015.
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FLASHING HEADLIGHTS TO WARN DRIVERS
Q: I was recently pulled over in a CMV for flashing my headlights at an oncoming CMV to warn him that there was a local city cop watching traffic ahead. I was pulled over by KHP in a time headlights were not needed and told that it was illegal to flash my headlights. I always thought it was a common courtesy to do this. Thank you – Adam in Kansas
A: Provided by Jim Brokaw, formerly a Staff Sergeant, Nebraska State Patrol, Carrier Enforcement Division, Lincoln, NE: It varies from state to state as to whether flashing headlights is an illegal practice, but you will find that 49 CFR 393.24(a) requires headlights on commercial vehicles to be steady burning. So, it could be construed, headlights that flash would be a violation of the federal safety regulations. Now I have a question for you. From my past experience in law enforcement, I found the truly professional drivers always drove within the limits of the law. So, why would it be necessary to warn someone who isn’t violating the law that there is a police officer ahead of them? If you were to look at it from the officer’s point of view, what you consider to be a “common courtesy” actually interferes with him/her trying to do the job we pay them to do. The people you end up warning are the very same ones he/she needs to be talking to.
MOTOR CARRIER ABUSING REGULATIONS
Q: My husband works for a national distribution corporation. He wants to know, what can he do when the company condones and indirectly encourages drivers to grossly abuse the DOT regulations? Are there steps to take or a solution to stopping this company from driver abuse? Thank you very much – Linda in California
A: Provided by Officer Jaime Nunez, California Highway Patrol, Commercial Vehicle Section, Sacramento, CA: The CHP (California Highway Patrol) has jurisdiction over enforcement of motor carrier safety regulations, and I can assure you that the CHP takes its responsibilities seriously and investigates all safety complaints against a motor carrier. You may anonymously report specific information regarding a motor carrier engaging in unsafe or illegal activity to your local Motor Carrier Safety Unit by calling them at (323) 644-9557.
COMPANY RIG NOT PROPERLY MAINTAINED
Q: I drive for a small company – been there for over two years. The owner tells us to write tractor problems on a maintenance sheet, but nothing is being done and there’s always an excuse as to why things aren’t getting fixed. What are my options? Thank you – Roy in Wisconsin
A: Provided by Senior Trooper Monty Dial (Ret.), Texas Highway Patrol, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, Garland, TX: You are doing what is required of you by the DOT regulations by doing a daily write up. You do, however, have the option of filing a complaint with FMCSA or stopping at a scale or inspection location and asking a DOT Trooper or Inspector to perform an inspection. One thing to keep in mind is this: if for any reason the motor carrier tries to retaliate against you or terminate your employment, you have documented the defects on your daily Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR or post-trip inspection) and that is something you can use against the motor carrier if and when you decide to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor for being wrongfully terminated. Just make sure you keep an extra copy of the DVIR’s, so you have that proof.
HEIGHT STANDARDS FOR TRUCKS & MORE
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 pavement to roof? Thank you for your help in advance – 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 lot of guidelines available for sale on the Internet. The National Electric Code (NEC) establishes electrical standards for the U.S. The NEC standard for utility lines that cross a highway is 18 feet. NEC standards are not laws or regulations, however, many states have adopted the NEC standards.
~ 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 September 14, 2015.