The Ohio Trucking Association reports that in 2010, 272,770 workers were employed in the trucking industry and related businesses. That’s one in 15 workers. Although not all of these employees are drivers, they all have to know and implement at least some part of state and federal laws and regulations.
Trucking is a heavily regulated industry, and the rules are constantly changing. What follows is a summary of some of those rules as well as a survey of changes that may be on the horizon. The focus in this piece is on semi trucks, which are more heavily regulated than other types of trucks such as delivery trucks, step vans and box trucks.
Ohio Trucking Regulations
Drivers of semi trucks are required to demonstrate their knowledge and fitness to drive at both the state and federal level. According to the Ohio State Patrol, drivers and their employers must know the:
- Ohio “move over” law
- Speed limits on different types of roadways
- Requirements for weigh stations or bypass authorization
- Registration requirements
- Method for determining the weight of a truck
- Requirements for obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL)
- Differences between Class A, Class B and Class C licenses
- Restrictions on double and triple trailers
- Restrictions on tanker trucks and trucks carrying hazardous materials
- Permitting requirements for oversize and hazardous loads
- Restrictions on truck drivers under age 21
- Restrictions on truck drivers who fail to meet the federal vision standard
- Restrictions on drivers who fail to meet the federal medical standard
- Restrictions on drivers who do not pass the CDL test that deals with the operation of air brakes
- Requirement for wheel protectors
- Regulations regarding vehicle types, weights and lengths
- Regulations about weight and length restrictions based on the type of roadway
- Exceptions to the weight restrictions for logging trucks, farm trucks, coal trucks and solid waste disposal trucks
- Restrictions related to bridges based on the weight, length and height of the truck
- Brake equipment requirements
Federal Trucking Regulations
In addition to knowing Ohio laws related to operating a truck on Ohio roadways, drivers must know the federal regulations described in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). These include:
- Restrictions on the transportation of passengers
- Prohibition against using a commercial vehicle for other purposes
- Hours-of-service limits that prohibit drivers from operating without mandated rest breaks
- Logbook requirements
- Inspection and maintenance requirements
- Brake equipment requirements
- Warning devices and gauges requirements
- Load securement requirements
Efforts to Change Regulations and the Response
Both large and small trucking companies have undertaken significant lobbying efforts to limit or overturn both Ohio and federal regulations. For example, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is supporting a bill pending in Congress to overturn federal regulations such as those imposed by the FMCSR as being detrimental to small businesses. A bill pending in the Ohio House would restrict vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds to the right lane(s) on multilane highways. The trucking industry has been lobbying to overturn 2013 changes in federal hours-of-service regulations that reduced the number of hours a driver could operate and when that driving could take place.
Trucking industry executives say that the 2013 restrictions have reduced driver flexibility and productivity, cutting into their bottom lines. However, the federal Department of Transportation continues to push for automated logbooks that would monitor compliance with hours-of service rules. Although some large trucking companies have such devices in their vehicles, independent operators and smaller businesses have been reluctant to bear the cost of installing newer technology.
Variation in Enforcement of Truck Rules
One of the problems in the trucking industry is that states vary enormously in their enforcement of their own trucking regulations and those issued by the federal government. And it is not only that states have different levels of commitment to trucking safety. Each state operates with specific conditions that determine where they put their resources. States with flat landscapes are less likely to be concerned about brake safety than states with hills and mountains. States dominated by particular industries such as the logging industry are going to be more concerned about load securement.
The Story in Ohio
How does Ohio rank when it comes to enforcement of trucking rules? It turns out that Ohio conducts fewer truck inspections per mile than the national average – 4.1 as opposed to the national average of 5.6 per lane mile. According to a trucking industry publication, however, the state makes up for the fewer inspections it conducts by finding a higher than average number of violations per inspection stop – two as opposed to the national average of 1.6. It ranks 11th in the U.S. in violations per inspection.
Ohio is No. 1 in the country when it comes to light violations, representing a third of violations reported in the state. It is second in terms of tire safety violations, fifth in overall maintenance violations and seventh in driving with defective brakes. Ohio drivers appear to be safer, however, ranking 32nd in moving and hours-of-service violations.
Although deaths from trucking accidents are down overall since the 1990s, there has been a spike in fatalities in recent years that concerns safety advocates. Whether safety regulators will prevail in the face of growing opposition to restrictions on truck operation remains to be seen.