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CMVSA - Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act

Last Updated: Nov 11, 2015

What New Drivers Need To Know About The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act (CMVSA):

The CMVSA was created with two goals: First, to ensure that commercial drivers were qualified to operate those vehicles, and secondly, to remove unsafe, unqualified drivers from the road.

The CMVSA of 1986 created a new national program within the Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish minimum testing and licensing standards for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers.

Before that, standards and testing were left up to each individual state, with no centralized system of collecting driver data.

Many states either did not require a CDL to drive CMV's, or did not require testing in a vehicle.

It also established the Commercial Driver's License Information System (CDLIS), which electronically warehouses commercial driver licensing and conviction data.

What Does The CMVSA Do?

The CMVSA took what was a haphazard CMV licensing system and consolidated it within the DOT , creating a national system of standards and testing for CMV drivers.

Background and Timeline Of The CMVSA:

  • 1987:

    Before the establishment of the CMVSA in 1986, different state standards and laws and no centralized system of collecting data meant that truck drivers with poor driving records could just move on to the next state and get multiple CDL's.

    In 1987,the CMVSA made it illegal for commercial drivers to hold licenses in more than one state, and illegal for employers to hire those that do.

    It also established disqualification requirements for driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as other controlled substance and other serious traffic violations.

  • 1988:

    The CMVSA established minimum standards for states to follow regarding testing (knowledge and driving skills) and licensing of CMV drivers.

    It also established the various class of CDL's along with the accompanying endorsements and restrictions.

    Established at 0.04% the blood alcohol level at which a commercial driver would be considered impaired.

  • 1994:

    Established compliance standards for states in order to get federal highway funding.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Commercial Motor Vehicle:

A commercial motor vehicle is any vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property with either:

  • A gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • A gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more which includes a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
  • DOT:

    Department Of Transportation

    A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

    State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

    CMV:

    Commercial Motor Vehicle

    A CMV is a vehicle that is used as part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and may fit any of these descriptions:

    • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
    • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
    • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
    • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
    • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards

    CDLIS:

    The Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) is a nationwide computer system that enables state driver licensing agencies (SDLAs) to ensure that each commercial driver has only one driver’s license and one complete driver record.

    A drivers file will include their driving record as well as their medical certification status.

    Commercial Driver's License Information System:

    The Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) is a nationwide computer system that enables state driver licensing agencies (SDLAs) to ensure that each commercial driver has only one driver’s license and one complete driver record.

    A drivers file will include their driving record as well as their medical certification status.

    HOS:

    Hours Of Service

    HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

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