Questions about Covering Your Cargo, Level 3 Inspections & More Answered by Law Enforcement Officials (as of November 2015)
Warning: Laws are subject to change without notice.
These interpretations were made on October 9, 2015.
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LOGGING A BREAK AT A FUEL ISLAND
Q: Is it legal to park at a fuel pump in a truck stop and log off-duty or sleeper berth for a 30-minute break? Thanks – David in Georgia
A: Provided by Senior Trooper Monty Dial (Ret.), Texas Highway Patrol, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, Garland, TX: If you are at the fuel island/pump of the truck stop and are fueling the vehicle, you cannot log off duty or sleeper berth. You are performing a safety sensitive function, on duty not driving, as defined in Part 395.2 “On Duty Time” and must be logged as On Duty Not Driving. The only way to properly log the required 30-minute break is Off Duty. If you log anything else, you are in violation if you are driving after having been on duty more than 8 consecutive hours without having the 30-minute off duty break.
WHEN TO COVER A LOAD IN CALIFORNIA
Q: I haul compost, green waste, lime, gypsum and occasionally produce culls with a set of side dump doubles. When hauling these commodities, do the loads need to be tarped? Personally, I use common sense. If the load is below the waterline and has some weight to it, I do not tarp. I ask this question because of the hay haulers – I see them going down the road with hay flying everywhere, so I was wondering what the law was on that? Thank you in advance – Carl in California.
A: Provided by Officer Jaime Nunez, California Highway Patrol, Commercial Vehicle Section, Sacramento, CA: The two basic reasons for covering cargo are to protect people from spilled cargo and to protect the cargo from weather. Section 23114 of the California Vehicle Code prohibits any vehicle from being operated unless it is constructed, covered, or loaded in such a way as to prevent any of its load or contents from dropping, spilling, blowing or escaping from the vehicle. Aggregate materials, such as sand, dirt, gravel and similar materials, must be covered. However, aggregate materials do not require a cover if the load does not extend, at its peak, above any part of the upper edge of the cargo container area, and remains six inches from the upper edges of each side of the container area. On July 7, 2008, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published a technical review which stated that incidental blow-off of individual stems of hay and straw shall not constitute loss of load, as identified in Part 393.100(b) of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations. Therefore, hay and straw are not legally required to be covered while being transported on public roads. The commodities listed in your question do not require a cover unless they pose a risk of being spilled. Spill protection is a safety requirement in many states. You should be familiar with the laws in the states you drive in.
LEVEL 3 INSPECTIONS AND SEARCHES
Q: An officer recently pulled me over for a roadside Level 3 inspection on I-80 in Iowa. I provided all of the required documents, along with a BOL and fuel receipt. All the documents checked out. A phone call made by the officer to the fuel stop proved the record in my logbook. Then, the officer requested to search my vehicle. I was surprised and questioned him as to when a vehicle search became part of a Level 3 inspection. I asked what the probable cause for the search was and stated that I didn’t agree to any searches. The officer said that he suspected that my logbook was falsified because I didn’t have more supporting papers. Then, I was asked to turn off my dash cam and to not interfere with the search, or I would be arrested. The officer went ahead and looked in my backpack, sports bag and laptop case, as well as through all of the truck’s compartments. He didn’t find anything suspicious, went to his car, and then returned with a clean inspection paper. I was sent on my way. Was his action within the law? If not, what should I have done and where can I report this incident? Thank you – Max in Maryland
A: Provided by Sgt. Pete Camm (Ret.), California Highway Patrol, Sacramento, CA: The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) different levels of inspections are a guide for uniformity throughout North America. None of CVSA’s inspection levels’ criteria include a “search.” With that said, commercial trucking is a highly-regulated industry which requires drivers and motor carriers to obtain, retain and present certain documents, as specified. And as such, administrative inspections do not violate provisions of the Fourth Amendment. Additionally, enforcement personnel are allowed to “search” to either prove or disprove that a violation or crime exists. In your case, he/she would be allowed to search anywhere a supporting document would fit (such as a backpack, PC case, etc.). Administrative inspections cannot be used to initiate a “fishing expedition,” however, I’ve included a few pertinent court cases that support the notion that trucking is a highly-regulated industry and that, through random roadside and/or scale house inspections, there is no real need for “probable cause” to search/inspect your rig. See United States v. Mendoza-Gonzalez, 363 F.3d 788, 794 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Fort, 248 F.3d 475, 480-82 (5th Cir. 2001); and United States v. Vasquez-Castillo, 258 F.3d 1207, 1210 (10th Cir. 2001).
~ 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 October 9, 2015.