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.

Must-Know Items for Truck Drivers in the Eagle Ford

Earlier this year we wrote a series of stories about the federal government’s efforts to regulate the training of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators. For 28 years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has attempted to standardize training requirements for entry level drivers (ELDT).

We Need Safer Roads, But...

DMC Instructor & Student
DMC Instructor & Student

There have been several heated conversations from trucking industry leaders, educators and safety advocates on what is a sufficient standard that will actually keep our roadways safer. Everyone agrees that implementing something to reduce accidents would be a good thing, but there are many opinions on how it should be done. Suggestions have ranged from enforcing stricter testing procedures by demonstrating performance based standards to an actual set number of hours that an individual must complete before obtaining their commercial driver’s license (CDL), as well as where and how the training can be performed.

On September 19th, 2013 the proposed federal rule was withdrawn because of over 700 comments sent to FMCSA stating several major concerns on how the ruling would negatively affect the industry. Protestors stated that the proposed ruling would do little to improve safety as requested by the federal courts.

The proposed rule may not have become law but the issue is far from dead. So here we go again. FMCSA is going back to the drawing board to research how safety can be measured among all drivers and what ruling can they implement to ensure the roadways will be safer.

Beyond the CDL Knowledge & Skills Test

[ic-r]The Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas has energized the Texas economy and provided many high paying jobs. The majority of them require a CDL. To get one you have to take knowledge and skills tests. To pass them requires a little preparation. Individuals seeking employment in the Eagle Ford are preparing for their CDL tests with training at truck driving schools at their local colleges, private for-profit schools or in company training programs. Some use self-guided study paired with borrowing Uncle John’s truck.

You may find a school or company offering “training” that seems quick and easy. You’ll be given copies of test questions from DPS, told to study them and get your CDL permit. Then you will be allowed to practice with a truck before scheduling your skills test at DPS. Sounds like a bargain and a fast track to starting your driving career but you should think twice. That is not training, and it could get you in trouble very quickly. You may find that inadequate training leads to ruining your driving record, wrecking your Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) score and preventing employment with good carriers that have strict standards.

Getting a CDL is just a start. Licensed CMV drivers have a huge responsibility. There’s much more to becoming a professional driver than just studying the test questions, meeting the basic requirements and squeaking through a driving test. You might think you could learn anything else you need through trial and error, but those errors could be deadly to your fellow drivers, even to you.

FMCSA may have withdrawn the ELT proposed rule at this time but don't let that stop you from making sure you have all the information to succeed. Have respect for yourself and your career. Make an investment in thorough training. You want to be doing this for a long time.

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 Trucks in the Eagle Ford Shale

Tanker Truck on the Highway
Tanker Truck on the Highway

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.

Mandatory Standard Proposals Have a Long History

Mandatory standards for ELDT have been in several heated discussions for almost 38 years. Rich Clemente, Transportation Specialist for the FMCSA Driver/Carrier Operations summed up the highlights as follows::

1985 the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued the “Model Curriculum for Training Tractor-Trailer Drivers” for voluntary adoption. The Model Curriculum was very well written and has been referenced in all discussions. (Our book, BUMPER TO BUMPER®, The Complete Guide to Tractor-Trailer Operations, follows this model curriculum.)

1986 The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 established the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) program with tests for knowledge/skills, but required no specific training. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) further recommended, as part of new “national driver license program for commercial drivers” that “a requirement for formal training should be included in the prerequisites for obtaining a national license.”

1991 The Motor Carrier Act of 1991 – the Intermodal Surface Efficient Act (ISTEA) Section 4007(a) ruled that the DOT “shall commence a rulemaking proceeding on the need to require training of all entry level drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).

1993 Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) was published.

1996 A Federal Highway Safety 1995 report “Assessing the Adequacy of Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Training” was transmitted to Congress. It drew two major conclusions:

  • Of the 3 private sectors (heavy trucks; motor coaches, and school buses), none is “effectively providing adequate training.”
  • No evidence was found of a relationship between adequacy of the training the driver reported receiving and his/her frequency of accidents.

2003/2004 Entry Level Driver Training (ELDT) NPRM (2003) & Final Rule (2004)

  • Writ of mandamus (2003) Public Citizen v. FMCSA for Agency to issue long overdue rulemakings – one was ELDT.
  • FMCSA published Final Rule (2004) intended to avoid duplication of topics in CDL testing; training provided through motor carrier. Topics covered included Driver Qualifications; Hours of Service; Driver Wellness; and Whistleblower Protection.

2005 Federal Court Decision: The U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit remanded the existing training rule to FMCSA for further consideration (Decided 12/2/05). The Rule was not vacated. The FMCSA “inexplicably ignores the Adequacy Report and the regulatory prescriptions contained in that report… adequate must include ‘on street hours’ of training.” The Agency’s action was thus “arbitrary and capricious” under Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

2007 ELDT Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) was published  with these key provisions:

  • New interstate CDL holders;
  • Hours-based training approach;
  • Mandated curriculum;
  • Accredited schools; and
  • 3-year implementation from Final Rule publication.

What Does this Mean to Potential CDL Drivers?

What does this mean to you as a prospective licensed commercial truck driver, or as a professional involved in truck driver training? We’ll explore that next month in ELDT, Part Two.

Good CDL Drivers Needed in the Eagle Ford Shale Play

18 Wheeler Side Shot Del Mar College
18 Wheeler Side Shot Del Mar College

South Texas has had a huge CDL driver shortage even before Eagle Ford Shale. Currently there are 150,000 CDL drivers needed nationwide. The American Trucking Associations have predicted the driver shortage will jump to 300,000 by the year 2014. Many companies are finding it more and more challenging to attract experienced CDL drivers due to the huge demand. CDL holders are held to a much higher standard than regular licensed drivers and must keep their driving records in good standing.

Hiring good experienced drivers is very challenging because companies have to be especially strict about driving records, accidents and Department of Transportation violations. This is because of CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) scores. CSA was established to keep accurate statistics of accidents, DOT violations, unsafe equipment and driving habits. CSA scores the safety performance of both the driver and the driver’s company. If a driver receives an unsatisfactory vehicle inspection and receives a violation, it will stay on the individual’s CSA score for three years and the company  that employed the driver at the time for two years. Under CSA’s new system that score will travel with the driver to whatever company the driver may transfer to over those three years. Having a negative CSA score increases the chance of receiving a DOT audit and can be very costly to both the driver and the employer.

South Texas CDL Training Programs Need to Utilized

Many companies have resorted to hiring inexperienced drivers to try and keep up with the workload. Inexperienced drivers could be a high risk if they did not receive adequate training from a credible CDL training program that teaches them how to be a safe, law abiding driver. Unfortunately there are some instances where a company will offer to train inexperienced drivers. In many cases these individuals are not successful because they are taught only how to pass the CDL test given at their local Department of Public Safety. However, there’s more to know to be able to drive a truck safely and efficiently. For example, drivers must know hours-of-service regulations and have to maintain a log book. Since hours of service isn’t tested it’s a subject that’s rarely taught in a CDL-prep-only program, but it’s vital to being able to operate a heavy commercial motor vehicle safely and legally.

Drivers must follow many federal and state rules and regulations which undergo frequent updating and changes. Not understanding their responsibilities can ruin drivers’ CSA scores quickly making them unemployable. Transport companies are in the business of transporting items; they’re not educators. Schools and training programs specialize in and have the experience and tools to give people a thorough education consistent with current industry and government requirements. [ic-c]

How to Choose a CDL Training Program

When researching a credible CDL training program to attend here are a few things to watch out for:

  1. Is the training program approved though your state or is it a crash course?
  2. Does the program offer classroom training that teaches the State and Federal Safety Regulations?
  3. Does the training curriculum include hours of service and vehicle inspection practices?
  4. How much time is offered behind the wheel for backing and road driving?
  5. After completing the training, what companies will hire their students and do graduates receive a training certificate?

Good training is an investment that lasts for a lifetime of safe and rewarding driving. Professional drivers get the best and most thorough training they can. They understand that they owe it to themselves, their employers and the people with whom they share the road.