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Recently, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, toughened requirements for obtaining commercial driver’s licenses, created a new commercial learner’s permit rule and established a new tank vehicle endorsement. These new rules should help better prepare commercial truck drivers for the road and help protect the safety of the passenger-car occupants who share the highways with18-wheelers.


Stronger Standards for Commercial Driver’s License Holders

The FMSCA toughened its requirements for obtaining a commercial driver’s license, or CDL. In addition to strengthening minimal skills, applicants must prove their legal status before they obtain their CDLs and cannot use language interpreters during the skills and knowledge test required by the FMCSA.

The new rules require states to use FMSCA’s standardized endorsement and restriction codes on CDLs so law enforcement can easily identify if drivers are in compliance with their license endorsements and restrictions.


New Commercial Learner’s Permit Rule

Under the new commercial learner’s permit, or CLP rule, applicants must meet the same requirements as those established for commercial driver’s license holders, including a skills and knowledge test administered by states with FMSCA-approved materials.

An applicant must now obtain a CLP and hold it for at least two weeks before applying for a CDL. Only adults at least 18 years old may apply for CLPs. Drivers with CLPs can only apply for three license endorsements: restricted passenger, school bus and the new tank vehicle endorsement.


New Tank Vehicle Endorsement for CDLs and CLPs

In 2011, the FMCSA also added a new tank vehicle endorsement to its list of endorsements and restrictions. Now, a tank vehicle is defined as any vehicle designed to carry liquid or gaseous substances in tanks that can carry 119 gallons or more, or are aggregated to 1,000 gallons or more. The tanks may be either permanently or temporarily attached to the truck’s chassis.

The new rule does not consider a flat-bed truck carrying empty tanks a tank vehicle, but does include vehicles hauling intermediate bulk containers, or IBCs, that can carry 1,000 gallons or more, since the FMCSA considers these types of tanks temporarily attached.

States have until July 8, 2014, to adopt the new endorsement; however, Louisiana has already implemented the rule, and started citing and fining drivers for failing to carry the new endorsements this spring.


How Will the New Rules Affect Louisiana Road Users?

In 2003, the National Center for Statistics and Analysis ranked Louisiana sixth in the nation for its ratio of truck involvements in fatal accidents per 1,000 miles of road. Between 1996 and 2000, Louisiana experienced 1.9 truck involvements in fatal accidents per 1,000 miles. In real numbers, this statistic equates to 588 large commercial vehicles involved in fatal accidents over 60,000 miles of road.

The new, tougher rules for commercial drivers should help create commercial truck drivers that are better prepared for working on Louisiana’s roadways and will help law enforcement keep drivers in compliance with their license endorsements and restrictions. Hopefully, these enhanced safety measures will draw down fatal-accident rates and make the roads safer for everyone.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a commercial truck, contacting an experienced personal injury attorney allows you to ask important questions about your legal rights and remedies.

Commercial Truck Personal Injury Lawyer