Regulations regarding out of country truck drivers
The United States accepts foreign commercial licenses from the federal government of Mexico and provinces and territories in Canada. The standards, requirements and penalties of the Commercial Driver’s License Standards apply to every person who operates a commercial motor vehicle in the United States. There are very few exceptions to these regulations and includes, but isn’t limited to, military drivers, farmers, firefighters, and emergency response vehicles. As a result, foreign truck drivers must follow these standards as outlined in §383 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
A driver can only have one CDL (commercial driver’s license). Drivers will be disqualified and obtain other penalties for convictions of certain criminal and traffic violations. Drivers who commit these offenses are subject to suspensions, revocations, or cancellations of their driving privileges. Drivers are required to notify their employer and State of domicile of these offenses. All drivers are required to provide their full employment history when applying for their CDL.
Employers are prohibited from allowing a person with a suspended license to operate a commercial motor vehicle and §383 has testing and licensing requirements for all commercial drivers. All qualified applicants for a CDL must take these tests and meet the Federal standard. The purpose of §383 is to prevent accidents, injuries and fatalities by having a bright line rule of requiring all drivers operating in the United States to possess a commercial motor vehicle driver’s license and to disqualify drivers who operate commercial vehicles unsafely.
Disqualification of Drivers
If a driver is convicted of being under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance (as defined by state law) or they refuse to be tested, their CDL will be disqualified for 1 year. However, if they are convicted of driving under the influence while transporting hazardous materials (defined in §383.50) they face disqualification for three years.
For a second conviction or refusal to be tested, the driver will be disqualified for life. If a driver leaves a scene of an accident they will be disqualified for one year. If they are transporting hazardous material and leave a scene of an accident they are disqualified for three years. For a second conviction of leaving a scene of an accident, the drivers are disqualified for life.
If the driver uses the vehicle to commit a felony, they will be disqualified for 1 year unless they are transporting hazardous materials then they will be disqualified for three years. For a second conviction, the driver will be disqualified for life. However, if the driver uses the vehicle in the commission of a felony consisting of manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance they are automatically disqualified for life and are not eligible for a reinstatement after 10 years.
It is important to note a second conviction of any of the offenses mentioned above will result in a life disqualification. A State is able to reinstate a driver after a life-time disqualification after 10 years (unless they were convicted of manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance while operating a commercial vehicle), if the driver voluntarily entered and completed an approved rehabilitation program. However, if the driver is convicted of another disqualifying offense they can’t be reinstated.
A driver can face disqualification for conviction of major traffic offenses. If a driver is convicted of any major traffic offense, as defined in §383, the driver will be disqualified for 60 days for a second conviction and 120 days for their third conviction. These offenses include:
1. Speeding excessively (15 mph or more above the posted speed limit)
2. Driving recklessly (as defined by state or local law) including but, not limited to, driving in a willful disregard for the safety of persons or property
3. Making improper or erratic lane changes
4. Following another vehicle too closely
5. Violating State or local law relating to traffic control in connection with a fatal accident (does not include parking violations)
6. Driving a commercial motor vehicle without obtaining a CDL or CLP (commercial learner’s permit)
7. Driving a commercial motor vehicle without a CDL or CLP in the driver’s possession
8. Driving a commercial motor vehicle without the proper class of CDL/CLP, endorsements for the specific vehicle group, passengers and/or type of cargo being transported
9. Violating State or local law prohibiting texting while driving
10. Violating State of local law restricting or prohibiting use of a hand-held mobile telephone while driving
Disqualification no less than 60 days for a first conviction, no less than 120 days for a second conviction, and no less than 1 year for a third conviction is the consequence of the below offenses when the driver is operating a CMV at the time of the offense:
1. The driver fails to slow down, and check that railroad tracks are clear of an approaching train
2. The driver fails to stop before reaching a railroad crossing while a train is approaching
3. The driver fails to stop before driving onto a railroad crossing when required to stop
4. The driver fails to have enough space to allow them to get through the railroad crossing without stopping
5. The driver fails to obey a traffic control device or direction given by enforcement officer at a railroad crossing
6. The driver fails to negotiate a crossing because of insufficient undercarriage clearing
All of the standards, regulations, and penalties discussed here can be found with additional information at www.ecfr.gov. It is important for foreign truck drivers to be aware of these standards and regulations in order to ensure they maintain a valid Commercial Driver’s License while driving in the United States.