Questions about Flashing Headlights, FMCSA Regulations and More Answered by Law Enforcement Officials (as of December 2016)
Warning: Laws are subject to change without notice.
These interpretations were made on November 14, 2016.
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FLASHING HEADLIGHTS AS A WARNING
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 a 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 so – is it not? 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!
FMCSA RULES WHILE ON PRIVATE PROPERTY
Q: Can a security guard in our yard wake my co-driver up in the sleeper and make her get out of truck for the sole purpose of verifying her identification? The security guard also came into my truck and opened the curtains to the sleeper berth and told my co-driver, who was only partially dressed, to get up and get out of the truck. Is this legal? – Mary in Tennessee
A: Provided by Senior Trooper Monty Dial (Ret.), Texas Highway Patrol, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, Garland, TX:
You have a couple issues to deal with here. First, since you are parked on private property, you are required to follow their policies. The property owner is not required to follow FMCSA regulations. That is something that you and your company need to discuss. Second, when you are subject to FMCSA regulations and are stopped at roadside, if the Trooper/Inspector wants to check to see if your sleeper berth conforms to Part 393.76, they have the right to enter, even if the sleeper berth is occupied. I would hope they would give the occupant time to get properly dressed (or the Trooper/Inspector could merely ask that you open the curtain to verify that you have a co-driver). There have been instances where a co-driver was shown on a logbook when there was not one, but the Trooper/Inspector never inquired. So, this is something that Troopers and Inspectors are now being taught, to verify that there is a co-driver.
RULES REGARDING SPARE TIRES IN CA
Q: What are the proper tie-down requirements for carrying a spare tire on our truck? California has stopped several of our trucks stating that rope, rubber straps, and 2-inch straps are not proper. We are being put Out-of-Service and it’s killing our safety rating. Please help! Thanks – Monty in Ohio
A: Provided by Officer Jaime Nunez, California Highway Patrol, Commercial Vehicle Section, Sacramento, CA: In California, your tire must be secured to prevent the tire from coming loose – and don’t carry your spare tire on your tractor unless it’s in a carrier or space designed to carry tires. Pursuant to Title 13, California Code of Regulations (13 CCR), Section 1244(b), externally mounted spare tires are required to “…be contained and supported by tire carriers or other means specifically designed for the purpose and secured to prevent accidental release of the tires.”
VIOLATING AN OUT-OF-SERVICE ORDER
Q: True or false – fines for violating an Out-of-Service order range from $2,500 to $5,000 for drivers and $2,750 to $25,000 for motor carriers? Thank you in advance – James in Illinois
A: Provided by Sgt. Pete Camm (Ret.), California Highway Patrol, Sacramento, CA: Mostly true. The civil penalty for a driver who violates an Out-of-Service order cannot be less than $2,500. But, if the driver gets a second conviction, the penalty cannot be less than $5,000. On top of those amounts, depending upon the state in which a conviction is made, there could also be additional fines, including court fees (even if the case never sets foot in a courtroom). Subpart D – “Driver Disqualifications and Penalties” – says: “383.53 Penalties. (b) Special penalties pertaining to violation of Out-of-Service orders – (1) Driver violations. A driver who is convicted of violating an Out-of-Service order shall be subject to a civil penalty of not less than $2,500 for a first conviction and not less than $5,000 for a second or subsequent conviction, in addition to disqualification under 383.51(e). (2) Employer violations. An employer who is convicted of a violation of 383.37(c) shall be subject to a civil penalty of not less than $2,750 nor more than $25,000.”
~ 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 November 14, 2016.