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PUCO Increases Application of Motor Carrier Safety Regulations

Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A.

Effective January 1, 2011, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (“PUCO”) will begin enforcement of the motor carrier safety regulations for intrastate private carriers who operate vehicles with a gross weight in excess of 10,000 pounds.  Previously, the safety regulations only applied to private intrastate carriers who operated vehicles with a gross weight in excess of 26,000 pounds. 

Undoubtedly, the new rule changes will affect many small business owners, specifically those who utilize a truck in any aspect of their operations, such as landscaping companies, construction companies, etc.  PUCO has scheduled a technical conference to provide affected companies and interested parties the opportunity to discuss the new motor carrier safety rules on Tuesday, October 19th at 9:00 a.m. at the offices of the PUCO, 180 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio in Hearing Room 11B.  The conference will also be broadcast live on the PUCO website:  www.puco.ohio.gov

The rules that will be applied to the private intrastate carriers cover a variety of topics, including driver training, employment screening, file retention policies, and vehicle operation.

Driver Training
The new rules will require drivers to be at least 18 years of age, pass a medical exam at least once every two years, provide annually a list of all violations, and successfully complete a road test at least every three years.  The road test covers pre-trip inspection, coupling/uncoupling, turning, braking, backing and parking, among other areas. 

Employment Screening
Employers will also have a new employment screening process and be required to ensure their employment application includes all information required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, including:
• The name and address of the employing motor carrier;
• The name and address of the applicant;
• The applicant’s date of birth and social security number;
• The date of the application;
• The issuing state, number and expiration date of the applicant’s license;
• The applicant’s driving experience, including a list of accidents within the previous three years, a list of violations within the previous three years, a list of all violations, convictions, forfeited bond or collateral within the previous three years, a statement regarding any denial, revocation or suspension of the applicant’s license, permit or privileges to drive a motor vehicle;
• A list of names and addresses of the applicant’s past employers (3 years for non-CDL positions); and
• Certification of the application by the applicant. 

Employers are also required to conduct an inquiry in each state where the driver held a license within the past three years and to conduct inquiries for each U.S. Department of Transportation regulated employer that the driver worked for within the previous three years. 

File Retention
Employers are required to establish a motor carrier file retention policy and maintain an accident register for a period of three years after a recordable accident occurs. 

Vehicle Operation
The new rules also regulate the hours of service the drivers can drive, the maximum driving time, inspection, repair and maintenance of their vehicles, maintenance file summaries, vehicle markings, the necessary equipment to be maintained on the vehicle for safe operation, and driving rules.

PUCO’s justification for the change is to ensure Ohio’s motor carrier rules are consistent with federal regulations and to increase safety on Ohio’s roadways.  The PUCO also indicated that the rule change ensures that the State of Ohio will continue to receive federal grant money for the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program.  This federal program provides financial assistance to states to enforce the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and the Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations. 

If you would like more information regarding the compliance aspects from the employer point of view, please contact Attorneys Matthew P. Mullen (mmullen@kwgd.com) at the law firm of Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A. at 330.497.0700.

NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.

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