You face daily challenges of complying with a variety of regulatory requirements imposed by federal and local government agencies and departments. A government agency may demand specific action from you regarding environmental protection, occupational safety, fire prevention, building construction and maintenance, company licensing and taxation.
With respect to commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and trucks used in a roofing company's daily operations, the Department of Transportation's (DOT's) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has regulatory authority, and it is critical you are aware of and comply with FMCSA's rules.
FMCSA originally was an agency of the Federal Highway Administration; since 2000 it has been part of DOT. Its primary mission is to prevent CMV-related fatalities and injuries. FMCSA develops regulations to test and license CMV drivers and enforces regulations intended to ensure the safe movement of hazardous materials on U.S. roads and highways.
FMCSA defines a CMV as any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway for interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle:
For purposes of obtaining a CMV commercial driver's license (CDL), the federal standard requires states to issue a CDL according to the following license classifications:
Drivers who operate special types of CMVs must pass additional tests to obtain an endorsement placed on their CDLs. Endorsements allow drivers to operate specialized CMVs such as those carrying hazardous materials requiring a placard (H endorsement).
Generally, for flammable and combustible liquids and gases, the hazardous materials aggregate amount requiring placarding is 1,001 pounds or more; such hazardous materials may include propane tanks, solvent-based adhesives, cleaners, coatings and mastics. The critical compliance issue to remember is that once the 1,001-pound threshold is met or exceeded on any load regardless of vehicle type, a placard is required and the driver must have a CDL with an H endorsement.
FMCSA regulations require drug and alcohol testing for any CMV driver required to have a CDL. Alcohol consumption is restricted during the period when a CDL driver is performing safety-sensitive functions. A safety-sensitive function means from the time a driver begins work or is required to be ready to work until the time he or she is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work. This may include time waiting to be dispatched, inspecting or servicing the CMV, loading or unloading, time at the controls and time spent attending a disabled vehicle.
Performing safety-sensitive functions is prohibited while consuming alcohol, while having a breath alcohol concentration of 0.04 percent or greater as indicated by an alcohol breath test, or within four hours after consuming alcohol. FMCSA regulations provide five required alcohol testing categories an employer must conduct:
Refusing to submit to an alcohol test or consuming alcohol within eight hours after an accident or until tested for alcohol also is prohibited under the regulations.
Drug testing includes the five categories of alcohol testing plus pre-employment testing. Drug tests are conducted using urine specimen collection with strict protocols and chain-of-custody requirements, and the sample analysis must be performed by laboratories certified and monitored by the Department of Health and Human Services. The specimens are analyzed for the following drugs or drug categories:
Be vigilant about safety
FMCSA's Office of Research and Technology indicates a commitment to safety from management carries over to drivers. In its Tech Brief: Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Retention and Safety, FMCSA states companies surveyed said since their safety incentive programs were initiated, the incidence of insurance claims, workers' compensation claims and crashes reduced 65 percent. FMCSA notes many safety-related incentive programs include recognition and safety bonuses for passing certain milestones for accident- and incident-free miles driven.
FMCSA rules are complex, and violations may result in substantial fines. A driver who uses a handheld cellular device or cell phone or texts while operating a CMV may receive a $2,750 fine, and the fleet owner may receive an $11,000 fine unless the fleet owner has a written policy forbidding the use of the devices and the driver in question has signed off agreeing not to use those devices.
Operating CMVs is an everyday occurrence in the roofing industry and essential to a successful business. You must be committed to safety, establish driver qualification procedures and manage CMV operations to stay in compliance.
Harry Dietz is NRCA's director of risk management.
Why safety is good business
According to DOT's FMCSA:
The good news is many crashes are preventable: