This season has taken its own sweet time getting started but most gins are finally getting underway full time. This means that gins are also finally getting fully staffed and one of those positions that some gins have had a particularly tough time filling in some cases are module truck drivers. Here, we’ll try to address the issues that you as ginners are facing from a regulatory standpoint. This year, it seems, most folks are asking about the proper way to hire a driver and what are the DOT requirements for truck drivers.
The short version is a Driver Qualification File, Drug and Alcohol Testing Program and understudying of Hours of Service.
DRIVER QUALIFICATION FILE
The first thing is a Driver Qualification File. This file is required by the federal DOT for all CDL drivers. So, what needs to be in this “File”? A checklist can be found by going to: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/eta/drqualif.pdf . This file needs to have everything in this checklist covered. Examples for the requirements are in the linked checklist. Application for employment, information from previous employers, driving records, road test, medical exam etc are just some of the things that need to be in this file. There are many companies that can help you along the compliance path and getting all of your bases covered. Some do all the work for you while others have just the necessary paperwork for you to maintain. One example of the latter is JJ Keller. www.jjkeller.com has catalogs of materials for the trucking industry but specifically has all the things that need to be in your Driver Qualification file as well as the files with check lists on the outside of the sleeve.
DRUG TESTING PROGRAM
One of the things we stressed several years ago but have not discussed a lot in recent years is the CDL requirement for drug and alcohol testing. We will do a whole article on this separately but understand that you need to have a D/A program for your drivers as part of DOT regulations.
HOURS OF SERVICE
The last issue that has been coming up is that of hours of service and operation. It is a confusing topic for the driver, employer and law enforcement and I will try to simplify here. As part of the regulations, all CDL drivers running commercial vehicles are subject to the hours-of-service (HoS) regulations. This is a limit on the hours a driver may drive, and be on duty during a period of time. This also has requirements for logging those on duty and driving hours. There are specific exemptions that most gins are able to take advantage of minimizing the impact of these rules on their operation.
Under the HoS rules a driver may a limited number of hours each day / week. The limits are based on the hours off duty and certain other conditions. There is an exemption from these limits for drivers moving agricultural commodities from the field to the first point of processing or seed and chemicals to the field during the planting and harvesting season ONLY. No other drivers are subject to this exemption so if you have drivers moving baled cotton to a warehouse or other CDL drivers they are subject to the HoS rules. The DoT website on HOS can be found here: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/topics/hos/index.htm .
So, module truck drivers are exempt from the hours of service, doesn’t it seem that a logbook is irrelevant? It would seem so but there is no exemption from logging the time a driver is on duty and driving even if they don’t have a limit on the number of hours they can drive. Which brings us to the next point. There are ways to track driver on duty time and driving time other than a traditional truckers log book. The law gives companies employing short haul drivers such as module truck drivers the flexibility to use other means to keep track of the hours on and off duty and driving. The ability to do this only applies to drivers who stay within 100 air miles, return to the same place they started, are released from duty within 12 hrs of beginning. This allows you to track the information by other means. Essentially, even though the DoT allows the driver essentially unlimited hours to drive during the harvest, they want to be able to recreate how fatigued the driver is if there is an accident.
All of the information outlined here needs to be available for a DoT audit. Many states and the federal DoT are stepping up their random audits and most states will require an audit of driver files following a fatal or catastrophic accident involving your vehicle regardless of whether or not the driver was at fault.
In Summary what do you need to have for your module truck drivers?:
A Driver Qualification file
A Drug and alcohol testing program
and A way to track a drivers on duty time and driving time
If you have any other trucks or driving not directly related to planting or harvest, you must also be familiar with the hours of service limits.
This can be very confusing so we suggest going to the sites linked above and looking at the materials on the federal DOT site. They have many checklists and copies of regulations. If you need help understanding this information, please don’t hesitate to contact your Association staff. We’re here to help.