Commercial Motor Vehicle Traffic Enforcement

CMV Stops and Enforcement Considerations

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Perhaps one of the most challenging situations an officer must confront in stopping a CMV is initiating the appropriate enforcement action, and returning the commercial vehicle into the traffic flow without creating a traffic hazard.

Officers must plan for this type of traffic stop. Follow the vehicle until you’re near a good pull-over spot. When possible, locate safe sites in your patrol area in advance. For multilane roadways, the officer may have to block lanes behind the truck to allow the driver to move safely to the right shoulder. Do not expect the same stop response time from a CMV as you would from a passenger vehicle. Officers should plan to avoid stopping the vehicle on steep uphill or downhill grades; on soft, narrow or slanted shoulders; on curves where approaching drivers can’t see; on bridges where available space is limited; and during other conditions when the traffic density and speed will not ensure visibility and distance for the vehicle to safely reenter the traffic flow. The primary factors in location selection are officer safety, driver safety, and the safety of other traffic on the roadway. Also, the officer should determine if the CMV traffic stop in a particular location causes more of a hazard than the actual violation.

Laws vary from state to state and place region-specific restrictions on CMVs such as requiring commercial vehicles to drive in the right lane on multi-lane highways except when passing or prohibiting them from using the left lane.

If the driver stops too soon, before reaching your preferred site, direct the driver to continue to a more desirable location. If the driver stops too late, direct the driver to continue to your next safe site.

As you carry out the stop, show the driver your lights by keeping a little more to the left than with a passenger vehicle. After activating emergency equipment, the officer must allow sufficient time for the driver to locate a safe stopping place. The size of the vehicle affects the distance from which your lights will be seen. Stay out of the driver’s blind spots. If you can’t see the mirror, the driver can’t see you. Avoid pulling beside the CMV and do not use your vehicle as a “rolling road block.” Do not attempt to stop a CMV from the front.

The positioning of the patrol car in relation to the vehicle being stopped is a primary officer safety issue. Placing the patrol car to the front or to the rear of the vehicle is usually dictated by agency policy. By parking in front of the vehicle, officers compromise public safety by not allowing other motorists approaching from the rear to see the patrol car’s lights. Also, after the contact, it is difficult to assist the large vehicle in returning to the traffic flow.

At night, allow at least 20 feet between your patrol vehicle and the CMV when possible. Turn on your low beams to illuminate the undercarriage of the CMV. Direct your spotlight at the ground directly below the driver’s door to illuminate the walking path to the cab.

When leaving your vehicle to approach the CMV, exercise extreme caution. Use all safety techniques available to you. Monitor traffic throughout the stop. Check your blind spots and rearview mirror before exiting your vehicle.

While approaching the vehicle, check for the presence of hazardous materials (placarding, leaks, spills, unusual odors). Refer to your Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) to identify hazardous materials, and call for a trained or certified CMV inspector if hazmat or vehicle defects warrant.

Initially instruct the driver to stay in the vehicle. Keep your hands free as much as possible. Control the flow of paper work from the driver. Collect the driver’s Commercial Driver’s License and registration only. Expedite the transaction in order to minimize the hazards to both you and the driver. Be brief, courteous, and professional. At this point, evaluate the driver’s condition during the initial interview. Look for signs of fatigue, contraband, and alcohol/drug use.

Officers should exercise caution when approaching the driver’s door during traffic stops as it may open unexpectedly causing injury or forcing the officer into the traffic lane. Generally, officers should avoid climbing up on the cab to the door. If suspicious indicators emerge, never search a CMV alone. Always call for back-up before initiating criminal investigations.

If you ask the driver to exit the vehicle, talk in front of the vehicle at the right side. During CMV traffic stops, driver contact is best done at the front of the vehicle as this affords the driver the opportunity to return to the cab for additional documents. The officer should keep the driver between you and the vehicle and face traffic. Fill out forms in front of the vehicle. Be sure the driver understands any equipment or driver violations and how to properly respond to any citation issued.

Direct and assist the driver in safely returning the vehicle into the traffic flow. Advise the driver how you will assist the vehicle for re-entering traffic. At night, turn off your vehicle’s front strobelights and emergency lights, but leave the rear lights on to alert traffic. When appropriate, advise the driver to use the shoulder as an acceleration lane before entering the flow of traffic. Enter traffic to provide a clear lane for the CMV driver whenever possible. Remain behind the CMV until it has reached highway speed.

Traffic enforcement activities involving CMV drivers require good judgement on the part of officers because their actions could affect the driver’s CDL status. If you have the slightest doubt as to the driver’s actions or the elements of the violation, a verbal or written warning should be strongly considered.

Firm, equitable, and impartial enforcement is the key to the credibility and success of any CMV enforcement program. Drivers will discuss various enforcement hot spots and experiences. This is an integral part of the network among drivers in spreading the word about a particular location or an agency’s enforcement policies and procedures.

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CMV Stops and Enforcement Summary    answers

  1. The primary factors in location selection for a CMV stop are
  1. Location of the patrol vehicle during traffic stops is dictated by
  1. It is best to interview the driver at the __________________ of the CMV.
  1. Why is it more advantageous for the driver to exit the cab and come to the officer, rather than for the officer to stand beside the cab?
  1. How should an officer direct and/or assist the CMV driver with a safe return into the traffic stream?

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