Driver Fitness BASIC: We’re Not Talking About Deep Knee Bends

When I say “driver fitness” you might imagine a truck-stop parking lot filled with hundreds of big-rig drivers on yoga mats executing a perfect cobra pose as the sun eclipses the horizon. Or maybe that’s just me. I’ve been told I have an active imagination.

Driver Fitness BASIC

As the FMCSA measures Driver Fitness—which is one of their seven BASIC categories, and the latest in our series on the BASICs—we’re talking about anything that makes a driver unfit to operate a CMV. These could include:

  •     operating with an expired or suspended license
  •     not having the right training or certifications for the load
  •     out-of-date medical qualifications

Driver’s operating without a current CDL, or who are unable to speak English, would find these violations added to their motor carrier’s overall ranking, which is available to the public through the FMCSA’s SMS website. And violations are weighted for severity, too, which means you can receive as many as 8 points for operating without a valid CDL, and 10 points for failing to comply with an imminent hazard out-of-service order. Most of the violations having to do with failure to display a medical certificate or lack of medical waivers carry 1 point per violation.

“License and registration, please.”

Drivers should take care to make sure their CDLs and medical certificates are up-to-date and completely in order. And if a driver is temporarily unable to qualify for the medical requirements for any reason, he or she can file a request for a waiver (or an exemption, if the condition is permanent) from the FMCSA. But be sure to carry that waiver or exemption along with the CDL and medical certificates, because failure to produce it is just as bad as not having it in the first place.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that a CDL can be suspended for failure to pay child support or unpaid traffic violations. So it’s important to have someone keep an eye on your mail if you’re away for any length of time, to avoid any surprises out on the road. And drivers required to use corrective lenses and hearing aids should be sure to have them in place when an inspection occurs.

What motor carriers can do

Drivers are responsible for making sure their CDL and medical certificates are current. And, more importantly, they have to present that paperwork in the case of an inspection.
Keeping certificates up-to-date is the biggest challenge here, and drivers can take some precautions in order to ensure their paperwork’s in place long before the DOT steps into the picture. I recommend setting an alarm or calendar item on your smartphone to remind you of expiring licenses or certificates. And, like I said earlier, if you’re on the road for days at a time, make sure you’ve got someone keeping an eye on your important mail.

What systems have you used to make sure you’re not caught by surprise when an inspection occurs?

Stay tuned next week as we talk about the controlled substances and alcohol BASIC.