Tag Archives: FMCSR

Are Trucking Companies Handling Your Cargo Properly As Per FMCSR?

As a professional truck driver, you face a number of different tasks on any given day. One such task, possibly one of the most important, is that of the secure transportation of your cargo. You understand the importance of proper cargo handling and weight distribution principles.

Always remember that either trucking companies or truck diver responsibility for the cargo starts as soon as the cargo is loaded into your vehicle and continues all the way through the moment it is removed from your vehicle. Make sure you are constantly aware of state and local requirements concerning cargo handling, especially if you are handling sensitive or hazardous cargo.

Regulatory Requirements

There are a number of regulatory requirements that govern your cargo. As it is being loaded into your vehicle, you need to make sure it is properly secured. Not only can shifting cargo damage it, but it could also post a safety risk to both you and those around you on the road.

Section 391.13 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) demands that you properly locate, distribute and secure your cargo. If you aren’t familiar with the procedures required to ensure your cargo is properly secured, you may want to take a second look at this rule.

Move on to Section 392.9 where the FMCSR clearly outline that a vehicle may not be driven without first properly distributing and securing the cargo.

Not only must your cargo be secured, but you have to make sure it doesn’t block your view, interfere with the movement of your vehicle, prevent you from exiting the cab or prevent you from reaching something in the event of an emergency.

More on Regulations

A best practice is to also inspect your load-securing devices within the first 50 miles of a road trip. After that initial inspection, you’ll want to reexamine your cargo security after another 3 hours, or 150 miles, whichever comes first. If go through a change of duty, you’ll want to do a thorough examination then, as well.

One notable exception to this rule is if your vehicle is sealed and you’ve been told not to open or inspect it. Also, if your vehicle is loaded in a way that you can’t inspect it, you may be exempt. For load securement specifics, see Part 393, Subpart I of the FMCSR.

Whether you are working with a truck, semi-trailer, full trailer or pole trailer, there are specific things you must do to ensure the safety of your cargo. Always remember that regulations require that your cargo is loaded and equipped in such a way that it won’t spill, leak, blow or fall from your vehicle.

Also consider that the type of cargo you are delivering may come with its own set of requirements. These types of cargo include, but are not limited to:

  • Logs
  • Lumber products
  • Building products
  • Metal coils
  • Paper rolls
  • Concrete pipe
  • Intermodal containers
  • Automobiles
  • Flattened vehicles
  • Roll-on or roll-off or hook lift containers
  • Large boulders

For more information on the requirements governing these cargo types, see Sections 393.11 – 393.136 of the FMCSR.

Finally, there are specific instructions in Section 393.110 outlining how securement devices are to be used. This includes aggregate load limitations of tie downs and other securement methods.

Regulations also govern everything from blocking and bracing to dunnage, load locking bars and tarps. Each of these cargo-related items must be used with specific procedures in mind.

In the end, always remember that your cargo must be contained, immobilized, secured and safe. Proper cargo handling is about more than a happy customer, it’s about truck driver safety. Don’t let your cargo drive you. You drive your cargo.

The Importance of Vehicle Inspections – Part II

In our last installment of The Importance of Vehicle Inspections, we introduced you to why vehicle inspections are so important. Remember, it’s not just about getting good CSA scores, it really is a matter of safety.

Since we have covered the types of inspections and how to inspect certain aspects of the vehicle, it’s time to dive back in to what we haven’t covered. So without further ado, let’s get right into inspecting your vehicle’s braking system.

The Brake System

The first thing to look at when you are inspecting your vehicle’s brake systems is the air pressure. You should not hear any leaks or notice any observable loss of air pressure on your air pressure gauge.

Additionally, air pressure should not leak more than 3 pounds-per-minute with the engine off. Also check for defective gauges and low air warning devices. Not only is it a matter of safety, but according to the section 393.51 of the FMCSRs, all trucks must be equipped with a fully functional warning device.

Brake drums should be inspected for any signs of visible cracks. Shoes or pads should be inspected for proper thickness, oil, grease, or wear. Also ensure that the brake chambers are securely mounted. Over the course of normal operation, slack adjusters could lose parts or need additional adjustment, so check them as well.

Brake lines also need to be properly secured. If you see signs of hardening, swelling or excessive wear, you may have a problem. If they are bent or folded over, you may wind up with air flow restriction problems.

Make sure you bleed your air reservoir daily to check for excessive moisture. It must also be securely attached to the vehicle.

Finally, air lines to the trailer (if attached) shouldn’t be tangled or restricted in any way. They should always be correctly attached and supported. Always ensure they are not rubbing on either the frame or the catwalk.

The Steering System

Steering system defects can include a number of components, from missing nuts, bolts, or cotter pins, to bent tie rods, drag links or pitman arms. Do a thorough visual inspection of these components to ensure there is no excessive wear or damage.

Steering systems also utilize hoses, pumps and fluid. Keep an eye out for leaks at all times and always ensure your power steering fluid is at the recommended level.

Finally, watch for any excessive looseness or “play” as you steer. If your steering wheel shows any play of 10 degrees or more, not only will you find it hard to steer, but it also could be indicative of other problems.

The Frame

The frame is the foundation for your vehicle. In one way or another, it is directly connected to all the other parts of the vehicle. As such, your vehicle’s frame must always be in good repair.

While the frame is usually the last part of the vehicle to suffer failure – mainly due to its rugged design – like any other mechanical piece, it is subject to potential fault. Make sure your vehicle’s frame isn’t cracked, loose, sagging or broken in any places. Also ensure the bolts securing the body of the vehicle to the frame are not themselves loose or missing.

The Suspension System

The suspension system is vitally important because it supports both the vehicle and its load. It also serves to keep all the axles in place. For truckers transporting fragile cargo, suspension in proper working order can be the sole determinant of whether or not the load gets to the receiver in one piece.

Not only can a faulty suspension system allow sudden shifts in cargo, it can also impact the steering and stability of the vehicle, which can lead to any number of breakdown or accident scenarios.

When you are inspecting your suspension system, check for damage with your spring hangers, torque rods, U-bolts, and leaf springs. If any of these components show signs of damage or excessive wear, you could have a potential problem on your hands.

Also check your air bags, air bag mounts, shock absorbers and frame members. Although these are all complex components, it should be easy to visually spot cracks, looseness or damage.

Well, we hope you’ve enjoyed Part II of our series. Join us next time for Part III, when we dig deeper into exhaust systems, coupling systems, emergency equipment and cargo.

What You Need To Know About Alcohol And Drug Testing – Part I

As professional truck drivers, we know how much safety matters. We understand that it is never acceptable to consume alcohol or illegal drugs while operating a commercial vehicle. What you do in your personal life is up to you, but once you’re behind the wheel of a big rig, you’ve got a responsibility to those around you.

It’s for this reason that you must undergo extensive drug and alcohol testing in order to be a truck driver. Sure, it’s another regulation, but sometimes they matter. There are different types of tests that hit at different time frames. And you must also know what it means to be impaired. Let’s dig a little deeper.

What is Misuse?

As it states in Part 382 of the FMCSRs, the purpose of the regulation is to prevent accidents and injuries that may result from a truck driver’s misuse of alcohol and/or abuse of drugs.

Let’s start with alcohol misuse. Alcohol misuse that could affect your being able to perform a safety-sensitive function is prohibited. A safety-sensitive function is defined as the moment you get to work until the time you are relieved from work. That whole time period is safety-sensitive, so don’t drink.

But that’s not all. Other prohibited alcohol uses include:

  • Using alcohol within 4 hours of needing to perform a safety-sensitive function;
  • Reporting for duty or staying on duty with a blood-alcohol content of 0.04 or greater;
  • Using alcohol during the 8-hour period following an accident;
  • Using alcohol any time before undergoing a post-accident test;
  • Refusing to take a required test.

Like alcohol, any drug use that could negatively impact your ability to perform a safety-sensitive function is prohibited.

Other examples include:

  • Use of any drug that has not been prescribed by a doctor or had a doctor provide clearance for your ability to take it and still safely operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV);
  • Testing positive for drugs;
  • Having a substituted or adulterated test result;
  • Refusing to take a required test.

Keep in mind that if you are on any sort of therapeutic drugs, your company may require you to disclose such medications, side effects, and frequency by which you take them.

Also take note that if you have a BAC concentration of even just 0.02 or greater, you may be required to sit out performing safety-sensitive functions for at least 24 hours.

What if You Fail?

Obviously, failing a drug or alcohol test for any unsanctioned reason is prohibited and will come with serious consequences. The same applies if you refuse to take the test, as doing so in of itself is almost an admission of guilt.

If you do fail or refuse, you will be removed from all safety-sensitive functions (your job) until you can go through a return-to-duty process. Under FMCSR regulations you will be prohibited from operating a CMV until you have completed this process.

In many cases you may not get a review at all. More than a few motor carriers have zero tolerance policies when it comes to drug and alcohol infractions. After all, their safety scores are at stake. Get caught failing or refusing a test and you may lose your job or jeopardize your entire career.

Types of Drug and Alcohol Tests

There are five main types of drug and alcohol tests. Join us in the next two parts of our series as we go into greater detail on each of these different test types.

We’ll cover:

  • Pre-employment testing;
  • Post-accident testing;
  • Random testing;
  • Reasonable suspicion testing;
  • Return-to-duty or follow-up testing.

In the meantime, make sure when you get behind the wheel, you are stone-cold sober. It’s not just your career at stake, it’s the safety of you and those around you.