July 18, 2019

Commercial Truckers Struggle During Minnesota Government Shutdown

“The Minnesota State government shutdown on July 1, 2011 when Mark Dayton, the DFL governor and the Republican led legislature failed to agree on a budget. When the government shutdown, so did all but three of the fully equipped public rest areas along Minnesota’s highways. Commercial truckers, frequent users of the rest areas, feel particularly burdened by the closures.

According to Minnesota Trucking Association (MTA) President John Hausladen, state and federal regulations require truck drivers to rest for ten consecutive hours after being on duty for fourteen hours each day. Ordinarily, many truck drivers would stop at one of the public rest areas when they needed to take their required break. Now, truck drivers have only one good option  private rest stops. These stops, however, lack the capacity to accommodate all of the truckers driving in the state. According to Hausladen, “truck drivers who run out of hours, but can’t be accommodated at a private stop, will have to make one of two illegal choices: they can drive in excess of their allowable hours to find an acceptable parking spot, or they can park on shoulders and ramps, creating a hazard for other motorists.

In an attempt to ease the situation, Hausladen and the MTA tried to have the rest stops reopened. The petitioned Special Master Kathleen Blatz, a former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, now in charge of determining which government tasks are essential and should continue to operate, to reopen the rest areas. She denied the petition, finding that the rest areas are “non-critical.”

Instead of the public rest areas, government officials in Minnesota suggest that truckers stop in the nearest town to use a restroom or to take a break. Truck drivers who decide to stop illegally on a ramp or on the side or the road are taking a risk. In spite of the shutdown, police and highway patrol officers are working and are still giving out tickets. Instead, many truckers choose to stop in the nearest state  Wisconsin. Truck driver Dennis Michaluk explains, I was reading about the shutdown in USA Today in West Virginia. That’s where I’m going, I thought. ‘Well, I’ve got to stop in Wisconsin. Michaluk spent $800 on fuel in the adjacent state.

But, closed rest stops aren’t the only thing that truckers in Minnesota are worried about. Licensing and credentialing services are also closed or operating in a modified manner. Truck operators find that they are losing money as a result. General Manager Sean Claton of Midwest Specialized Transportation explains that his company cannot operate because it cannot obtain licenses from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. As a result, he explains, I’ve made a multimillion-dollar investment in our business, purchasing equipment. I’ve got drivers for those trucks. I’ve got customers purchasing freight for those trucks. But I can’t put those trucks to work. He estimates that he is losing $5,000 per day because of the shutdown.

According to the MTA, some workarounds are in place, allowing truckers to continue to operate in the state. However, these procedures, when available, are patchwork in nature. For example, motor carriers are required by federal law to obtain the motor vehicle record of all of their drivers when they are hired and then annually. Since Driver and Vehicle Services (a part of the Department of Public Safety) is closed, the MTA suggests that carriers work with local police and sheriff’s offices. Since law enforcement offices are able to run these records, the MTA reports that they may be willing to help carriers obtain copies during the shutdown.

Truck drivers who need to renew their commercial driver’s licenses are still able to do so at deputy registrar’s office but will not be issued a plastic driver’s license. Instead, they will receive a yellow paper license that is valid for 45 days. If the shutdown lasts beyond 45 days, the paper licenses will continue to be valid. However, drivers who require a HazMat endorsement will not be able to obtain one.

Owners are not currently able to put new trucks into interstate service but can still obtain oversize and overweight permits through the Department of Transportation.

Information about available services is particularly difficult to find since many state offices are closed and their corresponding agency websites are not working or being updated.”

Find out more:

July 12th Time Article Discussing the Minnesota Shutdown and the Trucking Industry

Minnesota Trucking Association Information on Licensing for Truck Drivers

Trucker.com Article on the Hearing with Special Master Blatz

Minnesota State Website with Information Regarding the Shutdown (Including Agency Closures)

Distracted Driving Crackdown by DOT

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported their campaign targeted at distracted drivers, those who use handheld cell phones and those who text while driving, is showing signs of success. It is modeled after the “”Click It or Ticket”" program that helped to successfully increase seatbelt usage once mandatory laws were passed. The campaign involved four month-long waves of educational campaigns and police crackdowns in selected cities.

Distracted Driving Crackdown by DOT

The NHTSA, a division of the Department of Transportation, conducted campaigns in Hartford, Conn. and Syracuse, NY, where usage fell at least 57% and 32%, respectively. This promising data comes as welcome news as reports of bans on handheld phones have yet to show any real reduction in accidents according to a report published last year. The effectiveness of the state bans has been called into question and states were advised by the Governors Highway Safety Association to hold off on adopting further bans until research shows them to be effective. NHSTA plans to move forward with their campaign and test it out statewide in a yet to be determined state.”

USA Today

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

How To Get Your DOT Health Card

A DOT health card is required for drivers that haul a certain amount of weight in cargo. In some areas, it may be an amount over 26,000 pounds. Federal and state laws require that commercial vehicle drivers be physically and mentally able to drive large vehicles. This is extremely important for everyone’s safety. A Department of Transportation certification is necessary. It can be in the form of papers or a health card.

Dot

Examination

It is important to know about the exam. If you have certain medical conditions you may be disqualified. There is no sense in wasting your time, if you cannot receive certification.

Drivers must have a complete medical examination. Many conditions may exclude one from certification. For example, a diabetic that requires insulin injections is considered to be a risk. It is possible that some diabetics may lose consciousness occasionally. This is not acceptable for driving a commercial truck on the roads.

People without all of their arms and legs may be disqualified unless they have special training and equipment. Several types of heart conditions are also a cause to be disqualified. Many of these conditions are simply too dangerous for people to drive with.

Many muscular and joint disorders are also not allowed. Some arthritic conditions and muscular afflictions may interfere with the ability to control commercial vehicles. This also includes some types of vascular or circulatory disorders.

It is also important for one to not a have a history of epilepsy. This can often cause one to lose consciousness. It is not safe to drive with this type of condition.

During the exam, the eyes will also be examined. Good vision is very important for driving. One must be able to see road signs and any possible hazards up ahead.

It is also very important for hearing to be examined. It must be within an acceptable range to qualify. If not, a certification will not be issued.

Respiratory functions may disqualify one also. Diseases like emphysema and bronchitis may seriously impair one’s ability to drive. Sleep apnea is also a very important issue. One cannot run the risk of falling asleep while driving.

Alcohol and drug addiction must also be ruled out. Impaired drivers cannot be allowed to operate any type of vehicles. In some cases, there may be urine testing for drugs.

Physicians

Many different doctors may perform the exam. One may be able to have a family physician give the test. Afterward, the doctor fills out a form and sends it to the proper authorities. At that time, the doctor may be able to issue a medical card to the driver, if he or she passes. This card will usually be good for a period of two years. However, certain conditions like hypertension may shorten the duration of the card. You may need more frequent exams in some cases.

Summary

Some commercial truck drivers must have a health certification from the DOT, or Department of Transportation. A qualified doctor must give the exam, and many conditions will disqualify one from certification. If the driver passes the medical exam, the doctor may issue him or her, a card or papers. These may be good for a two year period. However, in some cases, the period may be less than two years, if there are certain medical conditions.

Find out more: http://www.iowadot.gov/