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New rule on self-reporting out of state truck accidents will lead to…more truck accidents

May 11, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

reporting traffic convictions for truckers

As of April 26, 2013, truck drivers with commercial drivers licenses no longer have to to report out-of-state traffic convictions to their home-state licensing agency.

This is because the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMSCA) eliminated the reporting regulation for interstate commercial truck and bus drivers and state licensing offices, stating that the reporting regulation had been made redundant by technological advances.

Wrong.  I personally feel this is a terrible idea.  In our world of state budget cuts, we – not just lawyers but law enforcement, safety directors and insurers – rely ever more on the ticketing state to report the offense to a driver’s home state and specifically the home state’s DMV.

The FMCSA feels this is now being done.  I have less confidence.  As a lawyer who spends a large percentage of my practice dealing with trucking accidents, I’ve seen too many examples of it not be done accurately, or in a timely fashion, or just not at all.  And that was before the sequester and the questions this raises about whether or not the FMCSA will even have the resources and the experienced people to ensure compliance.

It also doesn’t take into account the more complicated truck accident scenarios I see practicing law in Michigan, which borders Canada and the mandate to report cross border violations.

As a lawyer and a safety advocate, I feel this will likely undercut negligent hiring and especially negligent retention claims in trucking litigation cases. And certainly punitive damages cases against companies that knowingly disregarded public safety, because it now gives these companies and their own lawyers an “out.” They can now credibly claim they didn’t know about prior violations and prior truck accidents.

Here’s the full rule on Self Reporting of Out-of-State Convictions, according to the Federal Register notice:

FMCSA amends its commercial driver’s license (CDL) rules to eliminate the requirement for drivers to notify the State licensing agency that issued their commercial learner’s permit (CLP) or CDL of out-of-State traffic convictions when those convictions occur in States that have a certified CDL program in substantial compliance with FMCSA’s rules. Current regulations require both CDL holders and States with certified CDL programs to report a CDL holder’s out-of-State traffic conviction to the driver’s State of licensure. This final rule amends the CDL rules to eliminate this reporting redundancy for those cases in which the conviction occurs in a State that has a certified CDL program in substantial compliance with FMCSA’s regulations. This change will reduce a regulatory burden on individual CLP and CDL holders and State driver licensing agencies. This rule is responsive to Executive Order (E.O.) 13563 “Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review,” issued January 18, 2011.

The new rule assumes too much.  It assumes that if a truck driver or bus driver receives a ticket or causes an preventable crash out of state, and that state has a CDL program, then the traffic conviction will be reported to the driver’s home state and the administrative burden of double reporting will be lifted.

But what happens when it doesn’t?  Because it won’t.  Not all the time.  And it is in the instances where it doesn’t that the public safety and innocent lives become lost.

Related information:

When you need a Commercial Driver’s License and a special endorsement

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