Sunday, 17 October 2010 13:01

Fines for Out-of-Service Violations Increased in California


The California Senate has approved a bill bringing the state's commercial driver's licensing rules in compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations regarding out-of-service offenders.

The senate voted unanimously to approve a bill that would bring the state's commercial driver's licensing rules in compliance with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations regarding out-of-service ("OOS") offenders. Assembly lawmakers then approved the changes to the bill, Assembly Bill 2144 and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law on August 30th.

Out-of-Service violations are typically issued when inspectors find a driver or vehicle defect so severe that it must be corrected for the driver to operate the vehicle safely. Out-of-service orders often result from hours-of-service (driving too many hours) and commercial drivers license (CDL) violations, as well as other basic safety equipment issues, like the lights and brakes.

Fines for first time out-of-service ("OOS") offenders are changed from a fine range of $1,100 to $2,750, the fine is now a flat $2,500. Second time violations are now $5,000. Fines for employers convicted of knowingly allowing, requiring, permitting or authorizing drivers with OOS status to drive have been increased from $11,000 to $25,000.

This was in response to a Commercial Driver License Program review audit conducted in November 2008, by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. California had to correct any non-compliant issues from that audit before 2012, or risk being found out of compliance.

Action by the legislature was essential, as the financial sanctions for failing to obtain compliance ranged from severe to catastrophic. The initial penalties for substantial non-compliance would have been:

- A 5% loss of federal highway aid, complete loss of all federal grants, and a $5,000-a-day fine.

- For a second year, the loss of highway funds is increased to 10%.

- A third year of noncompliance results in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration decertifying the state.

Decertification would mean the state could no longer issue or renew commercial licenses. Given the amount of federal funds California receives, even the one-year loss would have been unacceptable.

The new law now makes it a crime to for a driver to violate an out-of-service order and the law doubles the resulting disqualification periods, up to two years.

The law now allows California to enforce out-of-service orders issued by the Federal Department of Transportation or a peace officer or commercial vehicle inspector of any state, any province of Canada, the federal government of the United States, or Mexico.

Federal regulations define an out-of-service order to "mean a declaration by an authorized enforcement officer of a Federal, State, Canadian, Mexican, or local jurisdiction that a driver, a commercial motor vehicle, or a motor carrier operation is out of service pursuant to [various federal regulations] or compatible laws, or the North American Standard Out-of-Service Criteria."

The previous law had suspensions that were only applicable if the commercial driver was convicted of a serious traffic violation and this conviction resulted in the revocation, cancellation or suspension of the driver's license. Now, the suspensions of 60 or 120 days apply whether or not the driver lost their license.

This law should bring California into compliance with the relevant federal regulations and will increase the ability of California law enforcement to supervise the operation of commercial vehicles, increasing safety for all California drivers. If you have been involved in any accidents involving a commercial vehicle, speak with a knowledgeable attorney who can advise you of your rights.