Questions about Placards, Logbooks, White Sheets and More Answered by Law Enforcement Officials (as of January 2017)
Warning: Laws are subject to change without notice.
These interpretations were made on December 14, 2016.
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THE TRUTH ABOUT WHITE SHEETS
Q: I’ve been hearing a rumor for some time now that we are required to have white sheets in the bunk but have been unable to find anything in the regulations. Is this just one of those “old trucker tales” or is it an actual requirement? Thanks – Michael in California
A: Provided by Jim Brokaw, formerly a Staff Sergeant, Nebraska State Patrol, Carrier Enforcement Division, Lincoln, NE: You guessed it right – this is one of those old trucker tales. I remember during my training an instructor saying a sleeping bag with a proper air mattress would be sufficient to meet the regulation. 49 CFR 393.76 gives you the requirements for a sleeper berth, but says nothing about white sheets. It only refers to bed-clothing and blankets. In addition to shape and size, the regulation specifies required equipment. Paragraph (e) of 49 CFR 393.76 states: “Equipment. A sleeper berth must be properly equipped for sleeping. Its equipment must include: (1) Adequate bed-clothing and blankets; and (2) Either: (i) Springs and a mattress; or (ii) An innerspring mattress; or (iii) A cellular rubber or flexible foam mattress at least four inches thick; or (iv) A mattress filled with a fluid and of sufficient thickness when filled to prevent ‘bottoming-out’ when occupied while the vehicle is in motion.” Where you can run into problems is if you are claiming sleeper berth time on your log and the sleeper isn’t properly equipped for sleeping (such as no mattress, no blankets, etc.) or it is being used to haul freight.
LOGBOOK PAGE SEIZED BY A TROOPER
Q: One of my co-workers was recently stopped by a Washington State trooper. After the stop (and a citation issued for a stop sign violation), the driver found that the trooper had torn out the carbon copy of the current day’s log. The trooper never even told my co-worker that he had kept the page. Since he was only about 50 miles from his terminal, the driver simply made a photocopy for his records. Is what the trooper did legal? Thanks – Bob in Oregon
A: Provided by Officer Jaime Nunez, California Highway Patrol, Commercial Vehicle Section, Sacramento, CA: Section 395.8 of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations contains an interpretation relative to this issue. In question number nine of the interpretation, it is asked whether a duplicate copy of a record of duty status can be submitted if an original was seized by an enforcement official. It is clear from the interpretation that enforcement officials may seize documents. In California, case law allows for the seizure of a logbook page by an enforcement official. Additionally, a driver must prepare a second original record of duty status to replace any page taken. The driver should note the first original had been taken by an enforcement official and the circumstances under which it was taken.
AFFIXING PLACARDS ON A SEMI-TRAILER
Q: I haul Hazmat shipments on a fairly-regular basis. If the trailer I am pulling is loaded with hazardous materials but does not have sufficient placard holders, is it legal for me to affix placards with tape? If it is legal, are there any restrictions? Any information you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thanks – Don in Vermont
A: Provided by Senior Trooper Monty Dial (Ret.), Texas Highway Patrol, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, Garland, TX: HMR Part 172.516(c) states that the placards must be securely attached or affixed thereto or placed in a holder thereon. So, if the semi-trailer does not contain a placard holder, then the use of tape to affix the placard is acceptable. No interpretation (at this time) can be found to further clarify this regulation. But a word of caution – if for any reason the placard comes off or does not remain properly affixed to the semi-trailer and you are stopped, a citation and/or violation could be issued.
LOGBOOK RETENTION REQUIREMENTS
Q: How long should I keep my old logbooks? Thank you in advance for any help you can give – Keith in Maryland
A: Provided by Sgt. Pete Camm (Ret.), California Highway Patrol, Sacramento, CA: The answer for how long to keep logbooks depends on what you are using them for besides keeping track of hours of service. If your CMV is registered pursuant to the International Registration Plan (IRP) and/or registered under the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) and you’re keeping track of your mileage operated in each state (jurisdiction) in your logbook, then you will be required to keep them for years. Statutorily, the State of California (CA) may audit for a period up to three years. Therefore, a CA-based operator is required to maintain records for about 5 years. Since CA’s mileage reporting period is from July 1 of one year to June 30 of the next, a driver submitting mileage for the 2011 IRP registration year would submit mileage accrued from July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010 – up to an 18-month delay. You should check with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (www.mva.maryland.gov) to find out how many years back they can audit to.
~ 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 December 14, 2016.