Don't Let Eagle Ford Drivers Be Put “Out-of-Service”

Drivers Daily Vehicle Inspection Report
Drivers Daily Vehicle Inspection Report

In trucking, “out-of-service” criteria define a set of physical conditions under which a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) or commercial driver may be prohibited from operating. An out-of-service violation removes the driver and CMV from the roadway until the violation is corrected, which obviously means no work gets done and no one gets paid. In addition, out of service violations are sometimes punishable by fines.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is serious about getting unsafe trucks off our roads and penalizing drivers and owners who fail to follow the regulations. In recent years, there have been more trucking companies and passenger bus companies placed out of service than ever before. The MAP-21 highway funding law that went into effect doubled most fines for serious violations.

Sharing the Blame

New rules that went into effect Oct. 1, 2013, allows the agency to place an entire carrier out of service for operating vehicles “without or beyond the scope of registration,” according to the regulation, whereas previously only the unregistered vehicle itself could be placed out of service. Now both the carrier as well as the vehicle can be penalized. Carriers and drivers who fail to comply with the state and federal regulations can be more easily be prevented from operating.

You can imagine this puts an even greater emphasis on thorough vehicle inspections and preventive maintenance which would catch potential risks to safety before they can cause accidents. A diligently-performed daily vehicle inspection will disclose such potential problems as faulty brake systems and bald tires.

Out-of-service penalties can also be levied against drivers without proper licensing and training. A CMV driver without a CDL or one that has expired can be just a serious a safety liability as brakes that won’t hold or tires ready to blow.

Activity in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas has increased truck traffic tremendously and statistics show trucking related accidents are up 41 percent.

Keep Eagle Ford Roadways Safe

[ic-l]In November, 2013, Sergeant Villarreal with Corpus Christi Department of Public Safety (DPS) spoke at the National Association for Publicly Funded Schools Region 4 “Keeping Our Roadways Safe” Conference at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi. Sergeant Villarreal indicated that the top three violations DPS officers see when pulling a commercial vehicle over in the Eagle Ford Shale are:

  1. Vehicle Inspections performed improperly or not at all
  2. Log Book Violations
  3. Driving a truck without a valid CDL license.

Keep Eagle Ford Drivers Trucking

Now that carriers as well as vehicles can be put out of service, here are five tips to help keep drivers “in service” and safely on the road:

  • Repair broken equipment.
  • Hire qualified drivers that have been properly trained with a valid CDL.
  • Have a strict pre/post trip vehicle inspection policy and hold drivers responsible for conducting and reporting them.
  • Have a no tolerance policy on faulty log book violations.
  • Conduct weekly or monthly safety meetings and reward employees for good audit results and discipline drivers that do not.

Give Me Some Space! Trucks Need More Room

In July of 2013, the Houston Chronicle reported that 12 people had died in Eagle Ford Shale area traffic accidents, an increase of 12 times the number of fatalities reported to the Texas Department of Transportation. This past spring, the San Antonio Express reported that Texas Department of Transportation data showed a 40 percent increase in fatal traffic accidents in the Eagle Ford Shale region last year. There’s no question that the shale play roads are busy and congested. This makes it more important than ever for drivers to know how to share the road. While the biggest jump in fatal traffic accidents has involved commercial vehicles, recent data shows that the majority of fatalities from collisions involving large commercial trucks are not the result of the truck driver’s actions but of the other driver’s actions. Sharing the road with large commercial vehicles means all drivers must always be aware of their surroundings.

The National Safety Council has a definition for a Preventable Accident. The NSC states further the expectations of professional drivers, that “every accident in which a driver is involved shall be considered preventable unless there was no action, which the driver could have reasonably taken to avoid the accident and that, his actions in no way contributed to the occurrence of the accident. The driver must drive in such a way that he commits no errors himself and so controls his vehicle to make due allowance for the condition of the road, the weather or the traffic, and so that mistakes of other drivers do not involve him in any accident.”

Road-Sharing Tips

[ic-r]Share the road and be safe by giving yourself plenty of room to maneuver. You need plenty of time, too, so maintain a safe speed. Here are some common sources of trouble and how to avoid them whether you’re behind the wheel of a large or small vehicle, courtesy of Del Mar College Transportation Training and Shell:

Blind Spots - Avoid tailgating a large vehicle. Remember, if you can’t see the driver’s face in the side view mirror, the driver can’t see you.

Cut-offs - Don’t try to sneak into a small gap in traffic ahead of a truck. Trucks take as much as three times the distance to stop as the average car.

Rolling back - Leave plenty of room if you are stopped behind a large vehicle. When the driver releases the brakes after being stopped, the vehicle may roll back.

Buckle your belts - Always buckle your seat belt. If you get into an accident with a large vehicle such as a truck, seat belts are your best protection. Trucks require a greater stopping distance and can seriously hurt you if your car is struck from behind.

Aggressive drivers - Aggressive drivers can be dangerous drivers. Pulling in front of trucks too quickly when passing and making frequent lane changes, especially in the blind spots of trucks can create dangerous and potentially fatal situations.

Wide turns - If a large vehicle in front of you is making a right turn, do not move up into the space that opens up in the right lane. You are putting yourself into a very dangerous position.

Turbulence - Due to various factors such as air pressure and airflow, a large vehicle can create heavy air turbulence. This may affect your ability to control your vehicle when passing a large vehicle.

Avoid distractions - Keep your cell phone and other electronic devices out of reach and silence them while driving.

Keep your eyes moving - You should be checking your mirrors, gauges and surroundings every 3 to 5 seconds.

Look Ahead - Be sure to look 5 to 10 seconds ahead of you to anticipate potential hazards.

Staying safe while driving in the Eagle Ford Shale play calls for planning, patience and attention. Aim to give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination so you’re not tempted to speed or chance risky maneuvers. Look out for other drivers, and yourself.

Riding the Hours of Service “Merry Go Round”

Running Clock
Running Clock

In December of 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published a final rule for hours of service (HOS) that is scheduled to go into effect on July 1st 2013 regardless of a pending lawsuit that was submitted by American Trucking Associations.

This is not the first time the FMCSA has changed HOS regulations and it’s not likely to be the last. How long drivers should work before taking a break is a bone of contention among several parties. Safety activists want shorter work periods and longer, more frequent rest breaks while those in the industry want to make the most of their time on the road. In an effort to arrive at the best solution, regulations have been changed only to be changed back.

The HOS “Merry Go Round” has been a thorn in trucking’s side for years and has cost the industry millions of dollars to update paperwork, policies and conduct training workshops so employees will be in compliance. As publishers of training materials, we at Mike Byrnes and Associates, Inc., scramble to bring our publications current.

Opinions will vary about the latest HOS changes but in the end we all have to comply with the regulations in force.

Here’s a summary of the changes that go into effect July 1st, 2013:

Limitations on minimum "34-hour restarts"

  • Current rule states:
    • there are no limits on how many 34-hour restarts you can use in a 7 day work week.
    • The new rule states:
      • Must include two periods between 1 a.m. - 5 a.m. home terminal time.
      • May only be used once per week.

Rest breaks

  • Current rule states:
    • there are none except as limited by other rule provisions
    • The new rule states:
      • May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver's last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes. [HM 397.5 mandatory "in attendance" time may be included in break if no other duties performed]

Here’s also a summary of the changes that went into effect February 27th, 2012:

On-duty time

  • Current rule states:
    • anytime a driver is in Commercial Motor Vehicle, except sleeper-berth.
    • The new rule states:
      • Does not include any time resting in a parked vehicle (also applies to passenger-carrying drivers). In a moving property-carrying CMV, does not include up to 2 hours in passenger seat immediately before or after 8 consecutive hours in sleeper-berth.


  • Current rule states:
    • "Egregious" hours of service violations not specifically defined.
    • The new rule states:
      • Driving (or allowing a driver to drive) more than 3 hours beyond the driving-time limit may be considered an egregious violation and subject to the maximum civil penalties. Also applies to passenger-carrying drivers.

Oilfield exemption

  • Current rule states:
    • "Waiting time" for certain drivers at oilfields (which is off-duty but does extend 14-hour duty period) must be recorded and available to FMCSA, but no method or details are specified for the record keeping.
    • The new rule states:
      • "Waiting time" for certain drivers at oilfields must be shown on logbook or electronic equivalent as off duty and identified by annotations in "remarks" or a separate line added to "grid."

Making It Work

Next month, in Part Two, we’ll take a look at how to manage the new hours of service regulations.

Quick Reference HOS Regulations


Property-Carrying CMV Drivers (Valid Until July 1, 2013)

Passenger-Carrying CMV Drivers

11-Hour Driving Limit

May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.

10-Hour Driving Limit

May drive a maximum of 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty.

14-Hour Limit

May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty,   following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the   14-hour period.

15-Hour On-Duty Limit

May not drive after having been on duty for 15 hours, following 8 consecutive   hours off duty. Off-duty time is not included in the 15-hour period.

60/70-Hour On-Duty Limit

May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may   restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours   off duty.

60/70-Hour On-Duty Limit

May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.

Sleeper Berth Provision

Drivers using the

sleeper berth provision

must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper   berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off   duty, or any combination of the two.

Sleeper Berth Provision

Drivers using a

sleeper berth

  must take at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth, and may split the   sleeper-berth time into two periods provided neither is less than 2 hours.

Truck Drivers - Watch Where You're Going!

Tanker Truck on the Highway
Tanker Truck on the Highway

Remember maps? Those huge sheets of paper had colorful graphic representations of geographic areas and showed the locations of cities, towns, highways, streets, mountains, bodies of water and a host of other information for the traveler. Using the map scale, a driver could estimate the distance and time needed for a journey and elect to choose a route that went around a busy city or one that didn’t climb a steep mountain range. (The one thing that few drivers couldn’t do with a map was get it refolded to its original convenient glove-box size.)

Truckers’ maps went beyond common road atlases by including additional job-specific details such as the locations of weigh stations, low overhead clearances and non-truck routes. (Plus they came bound in book form--no refolding needed!)

Truck Driving Maps Go Electronic

[ic-l]Increasingly, drivers are getting guidance not from paper maps but from electronic devices. Global positioning systems (GPS) use satellites to tell drivers where they are, where they are going and what lies ahead.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) wants commercial vehicle drivers to realize that not all navigation systems are the same. Just as truckers’ maps differed from common road atlases, so do GPS systems.

A typical system that a consumer might buy at an electronics or auto parts store may not have software programming to show low bridges, hazmat routes and other information relevant to commercial motor vehicle operators.

Paying attention to warnings can spare you a hefty fine for pulling your 30-ton tanker down a road restricted to a weight one third of that.

The FMCSA believes it is critical for truck and bus drivers to use the right navigation system when operating a commercial motor vehicle. If you use a navigation system that does not provide important route restrictions such as low bridge overpasses the shortcut you thought would save you time and fuel may end up more expensive than you had anticipated. A wrong turn or unnecessary mile can cost you time, money and patience.

Commercial Motor Vehicle navigation systems differ because they:

  • Take into account road widths which can affect speed limits
  • Report road, weather and traffic conditions that could cause delays
  • Alert drivers to elevations that can make driving a challenge

The FMCSA has created a visor card specifically for truck and bus drivers on how to choose the right navigation system intended for them. The visor card gives tips for safe use of navigation systems. It’s pictured here and you can also download it free-of-charge from The visor card provides tips on selecting the proper navigation system designed for trucks and buses.

A navigation system has to be used properly to give good results. The information you get out of it is only as good as the information you put in it. The FMCSA visor card shows how to input data. For example, in order for the system to provide you with the appropriate route, you should enter all relevant information such as:

  • Vehicle's length, width and height;
  • Axle weight; and
  • Any hazardous materials being hauled.

Drive Smarter, Be Safer

Give yourself every advantage by selecting a route that doesn’t throw avoidable obstacles in your path. Follow the recommended route and obey traffic, clearance and warning signs.

And it goes without saying: don’t drive while using a cell phone or texting. By planning your route and paying attention to your driving you can have a safe and efficient run.

Training To Drive In The Eagle Ford - Part II

DMC Instructor & Student
DMC Instructor & Student

Truck drivers with commercial driver’s licenses are in high demand in the Eagle Ford Shale Play. However, getting that CDL license could get much more difficult in the near future. If you’re planning on getting, or offering, training, you need to keep an eye on the proposed regulations for entry level driver training. (ELDT).

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding ELDT. If this becomes a final rule, all CDL training programs will have to meet those standards.

Last month we reviewed the long history of mandatory training standards proposals. What does the current NPRM mean for prospective drivers and for those in the training industry?

Must Complete Training

The proposed new rules will apply to

  • Any person applying to a State for an interstate CDL for the first time, upgrading to a Class A CDL from a Class B, or from an intrastate to an interstate CDL (including school bus drivers)
  • Any person not having completed the training who is reapplying for a CDL
  • After revocation for highway safety reasons or after a lapse in CDL status for 4 years.

Proposed Minimum Training Hours For Drivers

Note that the proposed rules require that a specific number of hours be spent in different aspects of training: in the classroom and behind the wheel.

BTW indicates time spent Behind the Wheel. The proposed hours do not include training for endorsements.

Training Programs Will Need Accreditation

[ic-r]The proposed regulations will require that training programs and institutions be accredited. The accrediting agency would have to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). This is of course of vital concern to anyone who is now conducting training which will have to be accredited under the proposed rule.

The American Truck Associations raised the following concerns about the accreditation part of the proposal:

  • There is a small (and shrinking) number of organizations that will actually accredit truck driving schools
  • Length of the accreditation process
  • After 3 year phase-in period, there is no ability to accredit a new school
  • Accrediting body standards will restrict schools’ ability to advertise and potentially jeopardize guaranteed employment upon graduation.
  • Would there be exemption for in-house training by motor carriers doing their own? (conflicting with a similar long-combination vehicle rule)

Mandatory accreditation would likely raise the cost of training.

Public Comment Period

The NPRM process includes an invitation to the public to file comments. In 2007 over 700 sets of comments were filed in response to the NPRM. Rich Clemente, Transportation Specialist for the FMCSA Driver/Carrier Operations notes that “most commenters do not oppose driver training but rather how the NPRM would be implemented is the contentious issue.”

Key concerns among the comments filed have been:

  • the cost of implementing the proposed Rule
  • the lack of quantitative safety benefit data from training
  • the matter of accreditation
  • a preference for a performance-based vs. minimum hours training approach
  • the length and details of the curriculum
  • a separate motor coach curriculum would be necessary
  • the availability of training in certain geographic areas
  • the effect on the supply of new drivers
  • an intrastate exclusion.

Click on the linkto view a video of the January 7, 2013 listening session that was held to hear comments.

What’s Next For Drivers?

FMCSA has to provide the court a new rule by September 2014 for evaluation. Should the regulation go into effect as proposed, the changes to driver training will be dramatic.