Want to drive a big truck? Do you have a brother, cousin or friend that is thinking of joining the men and women who travel the highways and byways of our great country? Truck driving is usually a good paying career and allows you to travel as little or as much as you like depending upon your job. Driving is one of the last jobs that will trust you with a $100,000 vehicle and sometimes up to a $1 million load of cargo and send you out across county to show up next week for delivery. You can’t take home a six-carat diamond from your job at the jewelry store for your wife to wear next week while you go on vacation; the insurance company frowns on that little idea. But the carrier and the insurance company are happy to trust you with the same amount of cargo value over the road. Professional truck drives are just that, professional.
Something that you may not know or understand is how the states exchange information about your Commercial Driver’s License or you Motor Vehicle Record. This is where the story gets a little scary. Think of all the government workers in all the states as the evil stepsisters of Cinderella. Let’s call the evil stepsisters Frustration, Anxiety and Stress are all going about their business without really caring what Cinderella, which is you, does as long as you make no money and have no fun. We also have the evil stepmother, the federal government, who likes the evil stepsisters better than she does you so you are often left to carry out the trash from the big party they had.
Frustration causes you problems because it seems that everything you do or want to do is delayed by a government employee with zero interest in resolving your problem, which causes your problem to hang around much longer than really necessary. An example could be a judge dismissed your ticket in Kansas but your home state of Georgia failed to get that information and put the original ticket on your MVR, thus causing your license to be suspended. You have a certified copy of the judge’s order showing the dismissal but your home state DMV clerk tells you: “We do everything in the order in which we get it, which could take up to 14 business days.” She promptly leaves to go on another smoke break leaving you standing there to wait on her return. Usually her 15-minute breaks turns into 30 minutes and the next thing you know it it’s her lunch time. Large bureaucracies seem to work like this way too often — no one cares.
Anxiety is the evil stepsister that will never tell you when your problem will be solved, if ever, and when you will find out it was resolved or not. Back to our DMV clerk who is now on her cell phone with a personal call to tell her kids to quick bothering each other and clean their rooms. Here you sit with your license suspended for up to 14 days and no one will, or can or wants to give you any information. You call home and try to explain to the family why they need to cut back on spending for a while. Then you go to the pharmacy for some Rolaids or other heartburn/upset stomach medicine and wait, and wait and wait.
Evil stepsister Stress is the natural outcome from not being in control of your future. Nothing you can do will speed up the process of a giant government bureaucracy. Do you try for a non-driving job to keep the money flowing, go fishing for a week or two, finish the honey-dos around the house, or take a chance and drive while suspended? Do not choose to drive while suspended; that is a whole other serious problem if you get caught and you most likely will get caught.
Here you sit, with all the evil stepsisters working against you and the step mom not even caring, watching your job, your future, your home life and your health go down the drain. How did this happen? What can you do? Is truck driving even something you want to continue?
How did it happen? Either you were in violation of the law, the enforcement officer had a quota to make that day, or you were the wrong red truck the officer stopped. What you can do is seek assistance in getting the evil stepsisters to speed up work and get your license reinstated so you can get back to work. Do you want to continue doing what you are doing? If you like the road and all that trucking entails then the answer are yes. If not, look for another job.
Twenty percent of the calls my office receives are from drivers where the government has made an error on either reporting a traffic violation by the court or a mistake on the driver’s MVR by the state DMV. Some of the reporting errors are due to the judge failing to properly write down the result of a traffic ticket case. Others are from the court clerk not reading what the judge has written and/or sending the wrong information to DMV. These errors should be very easy to repair. However, I come across many judges and court clerks that simply say, “Well, it’s too late now.” How can it be “too late now” when their failure to correct a simple mistake on their part has such a huge effect on a driver’s MVR? That simple mistake can cost a driver his job, safety bonus, or even his CDL; “too late” my foot. I think either the government employee is too lazy to repair their own mistake, they don’t care about the effect on the driver, or they are too important in their own minds to do the right thing.
Often, I can get the DMV to modify or correct their mistake by the paperwork I provide. However, when I run up against the evil stepsister mentality of “too late, too bad, how sad” I have no choice but to go back to the court of original jurisdiction and have the judge or court clerk modify or correct their mistake in order that the driver receives the punishment the court intended him to receive and not the death sentence the DMV so easily wants to dish out. This effort sometimes requires me to reopen a case before the judge and start all over for the driver. Don’t give up if this has happened to you. You may still have a chance to correct your driving record to protect your job, your future, and your CDL.
CSA 2010 is set to start this year. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has set Nov. 30 as when they flip the switch on CSA 2010. They know there will be problems, but have elected to proceed anyway. So you can expect even more confusion between the state DMVs and the federal government on the BASICs for the driver and the carrier. FMCSA has not determined how at this point a driver or carrier will be able to contest a warning citation which FMCSA counts as just the same as a regular citation, but they have promised to have a solution when they go live. They are looking into actually dismissing a warning or citation if it is dismissed by a judge and keeping it off your BASICs. Why would they not dismiss it if you convinced a judge you did not do it? They are still determining whether or not to remove points from the carrier for terminating a bad driver. They still do not have a way for the carrier to contest the citation or warning against their driver if the citation or warning was not also written in the company name even though the points against the driver will also go against the carrier, just to name a few examples.
A lot of things to be worked out changed or fixed with the new rules means additional confusion for the carriers, the drivers and the state DMVs. But anytime there is change there is the opportunity for you the driver to advance your career by passing all your inspections and not getting warnings or citations. Don’t let the evil step mom throw the baby out with the bathwater. Watch what you are doing and you will find fewer drivers on the road, which means you will be paid more for your clean MVR and CDL. Keep your CSA 2010 BASICs number low and earn more money. It’s a simple idea, but may be difficult to accomplish.
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., a law firm dedicated to legal defense of the nation's commercial drivers. Interstate Trucker represents truck drivers throughout the 48 states on both moving and nonmoving violations. He is also president of Drivers Legal Plan, which allows member drivers access to his firm’s services at discounted rates. A former prosecutor, he is a lawyer who has focused on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking and life over-the-road and has his CDL.