What are some examples of driver impairment?

The FMCSR requires that CMV drivers stay alert at all times while driving. In the world we live in today, there are plenty of distractions that can get in the way of being 100% alert. Therefore, the regulations outline certain substances and distractions that can impair a driver’s ability to drive safely. Some examples of these include:

  • illness or fatigue
  • drug use or possession
  • alcohol use or possession
  • texting or using a hand-held cell phone while driving.

Drivers are prohibited from driving and motor carriers shall not require or permit a driver to operate a CMV while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for the driver to operate the vehicle. The exception to this rule is when there is a grave emergency and continuing to drive is less hazardous to human life than not driving.

Additionally, no driver shall be on duty and posses, be under the influence of, or us any of the following drugs or substances: schedule I substance, amphetamines, narcotics, or any other substance that renders the driver incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle. However, there is an exception for a Schedule I drug if it was prescribed by a licensed medical practitioner.

Furthermore, drivers may not use or be under the influence of alcohol within 4 hours before going on duty or operating, use alcohol while on duty, or be on duty or operating a vehicle while possessing alcohol (unless the alcohol is part of the shipment). With regard to texting, drivers may not send or read text messages while driving a CMV, including while stuck in traffic or a light. Nonetheless, texting is allowed when legally parked or to contact an emergency service. Finally, drivers may not use a hand-held mobile phone while driving a CMV unless it is necessary to communicate with law enforcement officials or other emergency services.

Are there any operations exempt from FMCSRs?

The FMCSRs outlines seven major exemptions. While these seven are exempt from most of the federal regulations, they are not exempt from the commercial driver’s license or drug/alcohol testing standards. With that in mind, these exemptions include:

  1. All school bus operations (which includes both home to school and school to home).
  2. Transportation performed by the federal government or a state or local government (not including transportation by contractors or others on behalf of the government).
  3. The occasional transportation of personal property by individuals when there is no compensation involved and the transportation is not business related (moving houses or apartments would fall under this exemption).
  4. The transportation of deceased humans or sick and injured persons.
  5. The operation of fire trucks and rescue vehicles while involved in emergency and related operations.
  6. The operation of CMVs less than 10,001 pounds transporting between 9 and 15 passengers (including the driver), not for direct compensation. (It is noteworthy to mention that this exemption is not fully exempt from the FMCSRs).
  7. Drivers of vehicles used to respond to a pipeline emergency or used primarily to transport propane winter heating fuel. However, these activities are only exempt if the FMCSRs would prevent the driver from responding to an emergency situation requiring an immediate response.