What You Need to Know About Legal Requirements for Truck Drivers

A truck driver is seen inside the truck cab in a truck parking lot.

Being a truck driver is both a rewarding and challenging career. As such, specific legal requirements must be met to become a professional truck driver. Many fail these requirements, as evidenced by a survey saying there continues to be a deficit of as much as 80,000 qualified truck drivers in the US. This post discusses the legal requirements for new truck drivers and how to ensure you meet them all.

Licensing Requirements

Licensing is the first and most important legal requirement for any new truck driver. To legally drive a commercial vehicle, you must have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). To obtain this license, you must pass an exam that tests your knowledge of driving laws and regulations for commercial vehicles. Furthermore, you may be required to take additional tests depending on the type of vehicle you will be driving and where you plan on driving it.

Some states also have their own additional specific truck driving requirements. In the state of Washington, for example, these are the requirements to complete before obtaining your CDL:

  • You must be at least 18 years or older, with a valid Washington driver’s license.
  • You will need proof of citizenship, a Lawful Permanent Residency, or an on-domicile document.
  • You need to self-certify the type of operation you will be conducting; be aware that medical records may be asked of you.
  • You need to pass the knowledge test specifically for the kind of vehicle you will get a license for.
  • You need to get a Commercial License Permit (CLP).
  • You need to submit your training certificate for approval.
  • You must pass the skills test.

Driver Qualification Requirements

In addition to licensing requirements, truck drivers must also meet specific qualifications to be eligible for employment as professional truck drivers. You must have a valid driver’s license from the state or country where you plan on operating your commercial vehicle; you must also have adequate vision and hearing and be physically capable of handling the vehicle safely. Additionally, all truck drivers are subject to drug testing as part of their pre-employment screening process. If these tests come back positive, your potential employers may choose not to hire you based on their findings.

A driver is seen displaying his license.

Hours of Service Regulations

As with other types of professional driving jobs, truck drivers are subject to hours of service regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These regulations dictate how many hours per day and total per week can be spent behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle while on duty. They also include mandated daily breaks so drivers can rest before continuing their duties. The hours of operation depend on whether the route is passenger-carrying or property-carrying. For example, property-carrying operations have different 11-hour and 14-hour rules, with a 16-hour exemption.

Aside from thoroughly abiding by the hours, good driving habits are also important. Stay alert at all times; take breaks every few hours to rest and refocus before continuing your journey. Also, keep an eye out for other motorists on the road—truck drivers often have limited visibility due to their size and carrying capacity, so always be aware of what is happening around you when driving down highways or through city streets. Lastly, practice defensive driving techniques to avoid accidents caused by other drivers’ mistakes or negligence.

Be Familiar

Aside from the driver requirements, the vehicle you will be using is also subject to rules and regulations, especially with law enforcement agencies.

Before each trip, you must inspect your vehicle thoroughly—a pre-trip inspection is required by law. You’ll need to check your truck’s lights, brakes, tires, and other parts before getting on the road. These inspections must be done correctly so that any problems with your vehicle can be identified and addressed before they become major issues down the line. Additionally, regular maintenance on your vehicle will help ensure it runs smoothly for extended periods.

You should also be familiar with your responsibilities as a truck driver. You’ll need to understand the rules and regulations set by local, state, and federal governments. Aside from things like hours of service (HOS) regulations, it would be best to familiarize yourself with laws about other things, like protocols that govern weight limits and hazardous materials transport. Before you hit the road, please ensure you know what you’re expected to be as a licensed truck driver. Aside from being familiar with the requirements, having a knowledgeable truck labor attorney will also help you better understand the needs and navigate any legal troubles you may face.

Becoming a professional truck driver is an exciting prospect and entails specific responsibilities—most notably, meeting all applicable legal requirements before taking up the position. This way, new truck drivers can hit the road legally prepared for a successful trip.

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