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We have seen what happened in the Gulf when a company did not obey safety regulations. What about trucking companies whose big rigs we share the highways with?

Regulations are in place for corporations that come into contact with and have the potential to hurt people such as other drivers. For example, laws govern the hiring practices in various industries to help ensure that employees do not pose undue threats to the public. In the trucking industry, such guides are crucial. Drivers must obtain specific qualifications, and employers must take responsibility to make sure those drivers maintain reasonable standards of safety when behind the wheel. While these regulations cannot guarantee road safety, they help to minimize the risk of potential employees whose backgrounds, records, physical conditions, or lack of experience could pose a threat to other drivers.

As you might expect of any driver, truck drivers must have a driver’s license issued by the State in which they live. Drivers of trucks weighing more than 26,000 pounds must hold a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL). All drivers who operate trucks transporting hazardous materials or oversized loads must secure a special endorsement in addition to the license. In order to receive the hazardous materials endorsement, a driver must be fingerprinted and submit to a criminal background check by the Transportation Security Administration.

To qualify for a CDL, applicants must have clean driving records, pass written tests on rules and regulations, and pass a commercial driving test. Driving violations committed by those with a CDL are recorded permanently in a national database, and if drivers have had suspended or revoked licenses in the past, issuing authorities reject applications for new licenses. Trainees must be accompanied and observed by licensed drivers until they get their own CDLs, much the same as permit holders of are required to drive only when accompanied by a licensed adult.

Although many States allow 18 year olds to drive trucks within their borders, a driver must be at least 21 to cross State lines or get special endorsements. Regulations also require drivers to pass a physical examination every two years. These exams test hearing, and vision in particular. The annual physical must indicate that drivers have at least 20/40 vision with corrective lenses, and a 70 degree field of vision in each eye, as well as good hearing. They must also be able to distinguish between colors on traffic lights. Drivers must also have normal use of all four limbs and normal blood pressure. Individuals with certain illnesses, such as epilepsy, are also barred from working as truck drivers.

Federal regulations also require employers to test their drivers for alcohol and drug use as a condition of employment and require periodic random tests while they are on duty. With the exception of prescription medication, drivers may not use any controlled substances. A driver must not have been convicted of a felony involving the use of a motor vehicle or a crime involving drugs, driving under the influence, refusing to submit to an alcohol test when pulled over, fleeing the scene of a crime, or causing a fatality through negligence. All drivers must also be able to read and speak English well enough to read road signs, prepare reports, and communicate verbally.

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