Commercial Motor Vehicle Traffic Enforcement


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The number of traffic enforcement actions taken against drivers of heavy trucks and buses appears minimal when compared with those taken against drivers of other types of motor vehicles. The threat of death or injury from crashes involving these vehicles is substantial, and the resulting traffic congestion and cargo spill clean-up problems following a crash are staggering. The potential negative impact on public health and the environment is dramatically increased when hazardous materials are involved.

CMV enforcement efforts today primarily involve driver and equipment inspection, transportation of hazardous material, and detection of overweight/oversized vehicles. To be fully effective, however, CMV enforcement programs directed toward driver qualification and equipment inspection must be augmented by enforcement activities focused on serious moving violations.

The number of traffic enforcement actions taken against drivers of heavy trucks and buses appears minimal when compared with those taken against drivers of other types of motor vehicles.

Special enforcement efforts that address serious moving violations by drivers of large trucks and buses are essential in most jurisdictions. Even so, enforcement action on these types of vehicles is not always initiated when a serious moving traffic violation is observed, for several reasons. First, it is often difficult for the officer to safely stop a CMV due to the vehicle’s size, limited safe areas for stopping, and problems associated with merging the large vehicle back into the traffic flow after the stop. Additionally, the officer may avoid stopping a CMV because of limited familiarity with the applicable rules and regulations or complicated multi-jurisdictional CMV registration requirements. Officers may also be uncomfortable dealing with a driver more familiar with these regulations than they are. Finally, agency policies and procedures may have inadvertently created a hands-off practice by instructing officers not to unnecessarily delay CMVs when dealing with violations in areas where the officer’s individual training or expertise may not be adequate. Instructions to let truck inspections be handled by experts at an inspection facility may result in an overall reluctance to stop large trucks or buses for any moving traffic violation. For these reasons, needed enforcement actions do not occur. Diligent enforcement of traffic safety laws, including the issuance of traffic citations for violations, is an essential element of a successful CMV safety enforcement program.

Increased public awareness of CMVs as a potential serious threat to life and property has resulted in CMVs being designated as a primary national highway safety concern, garnering the same attention as speed enforcement, use of safety restraints, and impaired driver enforcement.

CMV safety has been a primary topic in traffic safety summits during the past decade. Discussions at these conferences identified the need for officers to increase enforcement efforts concerning serious moving violations, hours-of-service regulations, use of occupant restraint devices, zero tolerance of alcohol and drug use, and supporting the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Program.

Photo of an intercity passenger bus on a freeway ramp

It is estimated that approximately 90 percent of CMV crashes are caused by the driver, with driver error or impairment being most frequently cited as causation factors. In a February 1990 study of CMV driver fatality crashes, the National Transportation Safety Board found that fatigue was the most frequent cause of impairment, followed by the use of alcohol or drugs.

Inspection of driver qualifications is a key element in any CMV roadside inspection performed by commercial vehicle safety enforcement agencies. Other State and local agencies with traffic enforcement responsibilities can have a positive impact on any commercial vehicle safety program with a productive serious moving violations enforcement program. Trained officers detecting, identifying, and apprehending problem CMV drivers violating drug and alcohol rules and committing serious moving violations will enhance any CMV safety enforcement program. This type of traffic safety enforcement complements and enhances the basic CMV safety inspection program. When combined with carrier-based safety programs and motor carrier compliance reviews, traffic enforcement becomes a vital tool for identifying problem CMV drivers.

Introduction - Summary    answers

  1. The most frequently cited causes of CMV crashes are __________ _____________________________________________________
  1. A study of CMV fatality driver crashes by the National Transportation Safety Board identified ______________ as the principal cause of driver impairment, followed by _________________ .


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