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Part 390 § 390.3T General applicability

Part 390

§390.3 General applicability.

Question 1: Does the government exception in §390.3(f)(2) apply to motor carriers doing business with the government?

Guidance: No. The exception applies only when the government is the motor carrier.

Question 2: Are the FMCSRs applicable to drivers and CMVs which transport tools, equipment, and supplies across State lines in a CMV?

Guidance: Yes, the FMCSRs are applicable to drivers and CMVs in interstate commerce which transport property. The property in this situation is the tools, equipment and supplies.

Question 3: Are the operations of a church which provides bus tours to the general public for compensation subject to the FMCSRs as a for-hire motor carrier?

Guidance: Yes, the church is a for-hire motor carrier of passengers subject to the FMCSRs.

Question 4: Are the FMCSRs applicable to the rail movement of trailers and inter modal container chassis that previously or subsequently were moved by highway by a motor carrier in interstate commerce?

Guidance: No. They are only subject when being moved as a motor vehicle by highway by a motor carrier.

Question 5: Are personnel involved in road testing CMVs across a State line subject to the FMCSRs?

Guidance: Yes, any driver (including mechanics, technicians, driver trainees and other personnel) operating a CMV in interstate commerce must be in compliance with the FMCSRs.

Question 6: How does one distinguish between intra- and interstate commerce for the purposes of applicability of the FMCSRs?

Guidance: Interstate commerce is determined by the essential character of the movement, manifested by the shipper’s fixed and persistent intent at the time of shipment, and is ascertained from all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the transportation. When the intent of the transportation being performed is interstate in nature, even when the route is within the boundaries of a single State, the driver and CMV are subject to the FMCSRs.

Question 7: Are Red Cross vehicles/drivers subject to the FMCSRs?

Guidance: Red Cross vehicles/drivers used to provide emergency relief under the provisions of §390.23 are not subject to the FMCSRs while providing the relief. However, these vehicles/drivers would be subject when operating at other times, provided they are used in interstate commerce and the vehicles meet the definition of a CMV.

Question 8: May a motor carrier require fingerprinting as a pre-employment condition?

Guidance: The FMCSRs do not require or prohibit fingerprinting as a condition of employment. §390.3(d) allows employers to enforce more stringent requirements.

Question 9: Are the FMCSRs applicable to drivers/vehicles operated by a State or local educational institution which is apolitical subdivision of the State?

Guidance: §390.3(f)(2) specifically exempts transportation performed by a State or a political subdivision including any agency of a State or locality from the FMCSRs. The drivers, however, may be subject to the CDL requirements and/or State laws that are similar to the FMCSRs.

Question 10: Are the FMCSRs applicable to drivers/vehicles operated by a transit authority owned and operated by a State or a political subdivision of the State?

Guidance: §390.3(f)(2) specifically exempts transportation performed by the Federal Government, a State, or any political subdivision of a State from the FMCSRs. However, this exemption does not apply to the CDL requirements in part 383. Also, if governmental entities engage in interstate charter transportation of passengers, they must comply with accident report retention requirements of part 390.

Question 11: Is the interstate transportation of students, teachers and parents to school events such as athletic contests and field trips performed by municipalities subject to the FMCSRs? If a fee is charged to defer the municipality’s expenses, does this affect the applicability of the regulations?

Guidance: §390.3(f)(2) specifically exempts transportation performed by the Federal Government, a State, or any political subdivision of a State from the FMCSRs. Charging a fee to defer governmental costs does not affect this exemption.

However, this exemption does not apply to the CDL requirements in part 383. Also, if governmental entities engage in interstate charter transportation of passengers, they must comply with accident report retention requirements of part 390.

Question 12: What is the applicability of the FMCSRs to school bus operations performed by Indian Tribal Governments?

Guidance: Transportation performed by the Federal Government, States, or political subdivisions of a State is generally excepted from the FMCSRs. This general exception includes Indian Tribal Governments, which for purposes of §390.3(f) are equivalent to a State governmental entity. When a driver is employed and a bus is operated by the governmental entity, the operation would not be subject to the FMCSRs, with the following exceptions: The requirements of part 383 as they pertain to commercial driver licensing standards are applicable to every driver operating a CMV, and the accident report retention requirements of part 390 are applicable when the governmental entity is performing interstate charter transportation of passengers.

Question 13: A motor carrier dispatches an empty CMV from State A into adjoining State B in order to transport cargo or passengers between two points in State B, and then to return empty to State A. Does the transportation of cargo or passengers within State B constitute interstate commerce?

Guidance: Yes. The courts and the ICC developed a test that clarifies the legal status of intrastate portions of interstate trips. The character of the intrastate leg depends on the shipper’s fixed and persistent intent when the transportation began. The fixed and persistent intent in this case was to move property—the vehicle itself—across State lines and between two points in State B where it was used to haul cargo or passengers. The transportation within State B, therefore, constitutes interstate commerce. In some cases the motor carrier may be the shipper.

Question 14: What is the applicability of the FMCSRs to motor carriers owning and operating school buses that contract with a municipality to provide pupil transportation services?

Guidance: For the purposes of the FMCSRs, parts 390-399, ‘‘school bus operation’’ means the use of a school bus to transport school children and/or school personnel from home to school and from school to home. A ‘‘school bus’’ is a passenger motor vehicle designed to carry more than 10 passengers in addition to the driver, and used primarily for school bus operations (see §390.5). School bus operations and transportation performed by government entities are specifically exempted from the FMCSRs under §390.3(f).

However, anyone operating school buses under contract with a school is a for-hire motor carrier. When a nongovernment, for-hire motor carrier transports children to school-related functions other than ‘‘school bus operation’’ such as sporting events, class trips, etc., and operates across State lines, its operation must be conducted in accordance with the FMCSRs. This applies to motor carriers that operate CMVs as defined under part 390 which includes vehicles which have a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more or are designed or used to carry passengers for compensation, except 6-passenger taxicabs not operating on fixed routes.

In certain instances, carriers providing school bus transportation are not subject to the Bus Regulatory Reform Act of 1982 and the minimum financial responsibility requirements (part 387) issued under this Act. Transportation of school children and teachers that is organized, sponsored, and paid for by the school district is not subject to part 387. Therefore, school bus contractors must comply with the FMCSRs for interstate trips such as sporting events and class trips but are not required by Federal regulations to carry a specific level of insurance coverage.

For those operations provided by school bus contractors that are subject to the FMCSRs, the motor carriers must keep driver and vehicle records as required by the regulations. This would include driver qualifications records (part 391), driver records of duty status (part 395), accident report retention (part 390), and inspection, repair, and maintenance records (part 396) for the drivers and vehicles that are used on the trips that are subject to the FMCSRs. These records are not required under the FMCSRs for the other vehicles in the motor carrier’s fleet that are not subject to the regulations.

Question 15: May drivers be coerced into employing loading or unloading assistance (lumpers)?

Guidance: No. The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 made it illegal to coerce someone into unwanted loading or unloading and require payment for it (49 U.S.C. 14103, previously 49 U.S.C. 11109). The FHWA is responsible for the enforcement of regulations forbidding coercion in the use of lumpers.

Question 16: a. Are vehicles which, in the course of interstate transportation over the highway, are off the highway, loading, unloading or waiting, subject to the FMCSRs during these times?

b. Are vehicles and drivers used wholly within terminals and on premises or plant sites subject to the FMCSRs?

Guidance:

a. Yes.

b. No.

Question 17: What protection is afforded a driver for refusing to violate the FMCSRs?

Guidance: Section 405 of the STAA (49 U.S.C. 31105) states, in part, that no person shall discharge, discipline, or in any manner discriminate against an employee with respect to the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment for refusing to operate a vehicle when such operation constitutes a violation of any Federal rule, regulation, standard, or order applicable to CMV safety. In such a case, a driver may submit a signed complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Question 18: Are persons who operate CMVs for the personal conveyance of their friends or family members ‘‘private motor carriers of passengers (nonbusiness)’’ as defined in §390.5?

Guidance: No. Nonbusiness private motor carriers of passengers (PMCPs) do not include individuals providing personal conveyance of passengers for recreational purposes. A nonbusiness PMCP must be engaged in some group activity. For example, organizations that are exempt under the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 501) and provide transportation for their members would generally be considered nonbusiness PMCPs: Religious, charitable, scientific, and educational organizations, scouting groups, sports clubs, fraternal societies or lodges, etc.

Question 19: ‘‘Unless otherwise specifically provided,’’ §390.3(f)(2) exempts certain government entities and their drivers from compliance with 49 CFR Chapter III, Subchapter B, i.e., parts 350-399. Which parts are covered by this exemption and which are ‘‘otherwise specifically’’ excluded?

Guidance: Government employers and drivers are exempt from compliance with parts 325, 385, 387, and 390399. However, they must comply with the drug and alcohol testing requirements in part 382 and the CDL requirements in part 383. Parts 350, 355, 384, 386, 388, and 389 do not directly regulate CMV operators, public or private, and the question of an exemption therefore does not arise.

Question 20: Do the FMCSRs apply to Indian Tribal Governments?

Guidance: Under §390.3(f)(2), transportation performed by the Federal Government, States, or political subdivisions of a State is generally exempt from the FMCSRs. Indian Tribal Governments are considered equivalent to a State governmental entity for purposes of this exemption. Thus, when a driver is employed by and is operating a CMV owned by a governmental entity, neither the driver, the vehicle, nor the entity is subject to the FMCSRs, with the following exceptions:

(1) The requirements of part 383 relating to CMV driver licensing standards;

(2) The drug testing requirements in part 382;

(3) Alcohol testing when an employee is performing, about to perform, or just performed safety-sensitive functions. For the purposes of alcohol testing, safety-sensitive functions are defined in §382.107 as any of those on-duty functions set forth in §395.2 On-Duty time, paragraphs (1) through (6), (generally, driving and related activities) and;

(4) The accident report retention requirements of §390.15 are applicable when the governmental entity is performing interstate charter transportation of passengers.

Question 21: Does the exemption in §390.3(f)(3) for the ‘‘occasional transportation of personal property by individuals not for compensation nor in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise’’ apply to persons who occasionally use CMVs to transport cars, boats, horses, etc., to races, tournaments, shows or similar events, even if prize money is offered at these events?

Guidance: The exemption would apply to this kind of transportation, provided: (1) The underlying activities are not undertaken for profit, i.e., (a) prize money is declared as ordinary income for tax purposes, and (b) the cost of the underlying activities is not deducted as a business expense for tax purposes; and, where relevant; (2) corporate sponsorship is not involved. Drivers must confer with their State of licensure to determine the licensing provisions to which they are subject.

Question 22: If, after December 18, 1995, a Mexico-based driver is found operating beyond the boundaries of the four border States allowed by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), is that driver in violation of the FMCSRs? If so, which one?

Guidance: No. Driving beyond the four border States is not, in and of itself, a violation of the FMCSRs.

Question 23: Is transportation within the boundaries of a State between a place in an Indian Reservation and a place outside such reservation interstate commerce?

Guidance: No, such transportation is considered to be intrastate commerce. An Indian reservation is geographically located within the area of a State. Enforcement on Indian reservations is inherently Federal, unless such authority has been granted to the States by Congressional enactment, accepted by the States where appropriate, and consented to by the Indian tribes.

Question 24: To what extent does the FHWA have jurisdiction to regulate the qualifications and hours of service of CMV drivers engaged in interstate or foreign commerce if the drivers only occasionally operate in interstate or foreign commerce?

Guidance: The FHWA published an interpretation in the Federal Register on July 23, 1981 (46 FR 37902) on this subject. The FHWA must show that the driver or motor carrier has engaged in interstate or foreign commerce within a reasonable period of time prior to its assertion of jurisdiction under 49 U.S.C. 31136 and 31502.

The FHWA must show that the driver or motor carrier has actually operated in interstate commerce within a reasonable period of time prior to its assertion of jurisdiction. Mere solicitation of business that would involve operations in interstate commerce is not sufficient to establish jurisdiction. If jurisdiction is claimed over a driver who has not driven in interstate commerce, evidence must be presented that the carrier has operated in interstate commerce and that the driver could reasonably be expected to make one of the carrier’s interstate runs. Satisfactory evidence would include, but not be limited to, statements from drivers and carriers and any employment agreements.

Evidence of driving or being available for use in interstate commerce makes the driver subject to the FMCSRs for a 4-month period from the date of the proof. For that period, the motor carrier is also required to comply with those portions of the FMCSRs that deal with drivers, driving, and records related to or generated by drivers, primarily those in 49 CFR parts 387, 391, 392, 395 and 396. The FHWA believes that the 4-month period is reasonable because it avoids both a week-by-week determination of jurisdiction, which is excessively narrow, and the assertion that a driver who is used or available for use once remains subject to the FMCSRs for an unlimited time, which is overly inclusive.

Editor’s Note: The following memorandum was issued February 8, 2000.

Purpose

On July 6, 1999, I issued a memorandum to all field offices concerning the authority of the Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety (OMCHS) to regulate the qualifications and maximum hours of service of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers who operate both in interstate and intrastate commerce. Concerns about that memo have been expressed by (1) State agencies uncertain about its implications for the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP) (specifically, the tolerance guidelines for States’ intrastate hours-of-service regulations); (2) motor carriers trying to determine whether Federal or State safety regulations would apply to intrastate trips made by drivers who also handled interstate runs; and (3) FMCSA field office personnel.

After considering the issues raised by the July memo, I have decided to change the policy of the FMCSA. This memorandum explains when the agency will exercise jurisdiction over intrastate operations of motor carriers and drivers that sometimes operate interstate.

Background

The statutes on which most of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) are based apply only to “interstate commerce.” The extent of the jurisdiction conferred by that term has been decided by the Federal courts in a long series of cases. Most of the motor carrier cases analyzing “interstate commerce” involve disputes about overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA exempts employers from the requirement to pay over time to any employee “with respect to whom the Secretary of Transportation has power to establish qualifications and maximum hours of service” under the Motor Carrier Act of 1935 (i.e., 49 U.S.C. 31502). Since the 1935 Act applies only to “inter-state commerce,” the courts have had to determine whether drivers not currently operating across State lines may nonetheless be subject to the “power” of the Secretary, and thus not entitled to overtime pay.

In 1981 the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), on be-half of its Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety, published a notice in the Federal Register (46 FR 37902, July 23, 1981) discussing the more important FLSA cases and interpreting its “jurisdiction to regulate the qualifications and maximum hours of service of commercial motor vehicle drivers engaged in interstate or foreign commerce.” The notice summarized the conclusions of these cases as follows:

  • If in the regular course of employment a driver is, or could be, called upon to transport a shipment in interstate commerce the driver would be subject to the FHWA’s jurisdiction under 49 U.S.C304 [i.e., the Motor Carrier Act of 1935, now codified at 49 U.S.C. 31502]. 49 U.S.C. 304 provides the authority to regulate the qualifications and maximum hours of service of employees and safety of operation and equipment of common carriers, contract carriers, private carriers of property, and carriers of migrant workers. . . . These cases establish the basic tests for determining whether a driver is subject to Federal jurisdiction under 49 U.S.C. 304. They hold that even a minor involvement in interstate commerce as a regular part of an employee’s duties will subject that employee to the jurisdiction of the FHWA. In two of the cases mentioned, “Morris v. McComb” [332 U.S. 422, Supreme Court, 1947] and “Starrett v. Bruce” [391 F.2d 320 (10th Cir. 1968)], the courts found jurisdiction over drivers even though those drivers had not driven at all in interstate commerce. The findings of jurisdiction were based on the probability of those drivers being assigned to interstate runs in the regular course of their employment.

The 1981 notice reached the following conclusion:

  • The FHWA view is that in order to establish jurisdiction under 49 U.S.C. 304 [now 49 U.S.C. 31502] the carrier must be shown to have engaged in interstate commerce within are as on able period of time prior to the time at which jurisdiction is in question. The carrier’s involvement in in terstate commerce must be established by some concrete evidence such as an actual trip in interstate commerce or proof, in the case of a “for hire” carrier, that interstate business had been solicited. If jurisdiction is claimed over a driver who has not driven in interstate commerce, evidence must be presented that the carrier has engaged in interstate commerce and that the driver could reasonably have been expected to make one of the carrier’s interstate runs. Satisfactory evidence would be statements from drivers and carriers, and any employment agreements.
  • Evidence of driving in interstate commerce or being subject to being used in interstate commerce should be accepted as proof that the driver is subject to 49 U.S.C. 304 for a 4-month period from the date of the proof. The FHWA believes that the 4-month period is reasonable because it avoids both the too strict week-by-week approach and the situation where a driver could be used or be subject to being used once and remain subject to jurisdiction under 49 U.S.C. 304 for an unlimited time.

Although the notice of interpretation was never included in the Code of Federal Regulations, the FHWA summarized it in the Regulatory Guidance for the FMCSRs published on April 4,1997 (Q. 24 under Part 390, 63 FR 16370, at 16406).

Despite the 1981 and 1997 publications, the Office of Motor Carriers (OMC) and the OMCHS never applied the so-called 4-month rule, or at least not universally. My July 6 memorandum was designed to create a new, consistent policy for OMC. As mentioned above, however, it has created more problems than it resolved. I am therefore issuing this document to establish a new national policy for the FMCSA.

National Policy

Safety is the highest priority of the FMCSA. Enforcement of the hours of service regulations is a critical part of that mandate. Drivers who operate in interstate commerce must be in compliance with 49 C.F.R. Part 395 before, during and after interstate trips. Although the case law discussed in the 1981 notice of interpretation clearly supports an assertion of jurisdiction over a driver for four months after a single interstate trip, a 4-month rule is not necessary to prevent fatigue. The rules in Part 395 control hours of service in periods of either 7 consecutive days (if the carrier does not operate every day of the week) or 8 consecutive days (if the carrier operates every day of the week). Because compliance with Part 395 during the 7- or 8-day period before and after an interstate trip will keep driver fatigue within manageable bounds, the FMCSA will replace the 4-month rule with a 14/15-day rule.

1.

Any driver who begins a trip in interstate commerce must continue to meet the requirements of 49 CFR 395.3(a) and (b) through the end of the next 7 to 8 consecutive days, depending on which rule the motor carrier operates under.The driver must continue to comply with the requirements of 49 CFR Part 395, even if he/she operates exclusively in intrastate commerce for the remainder of the 60/70hour period (i.e. 7-8 day schedule) at the end of the interstate trip. The driver must also continue to comply with the 10- and 15-hour rules as well as the 60-or 70-hour rules for the remainder of that day, and the following 7 days (if the 60-hour rule was applicable) or 8 days (if the 70-hour rule was applicable).A driver who begins a trip in interstate commerce in a CMV must have in his/her possession a copy of records of duty status for the previous 7 consecutive days, as required by 49 CFR 395.8(k)(2)unless they meet 49 CFR 395.1(e), even if the driver operated only in intrastate commerce during that 7-day period. During the 7-day period prior to the interstate trip the driver may follow the state regulations applicable to intrastate commerce with regard to the states’ CMV driving and on-duty requirements.

2.

FMCSA investigators should cite drivers for violations of the 10- or 15-hour rules or the 60- or 70-hour rules that are committed while on the interstate trip or during the 7 or 8 days after completing the interstate trip (depending on which rule the motor carrier operates under).The driver remains subject to Part 395 for 7 or 8 days after a trip in interstate commerce even if he/she drives only in intrastate commerce for that period. Violations of the policies stated here which are discovered during compliance reviews should be treated like any other violations of the FMCSRs in determining the motor carrier’s safety rating and enforcement action may be taken.

3.

The MCSAP Tolerance Guidelines in Appendix C to 49 C.F.R. Part 350 are unchanged. This policy statement simply clarifies the difference between Paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Guidelines, i.e., between the type of trips subject to Federal jurisdiction, as opposed to those subject only to State jurisdiction.

The FMCSA does not disagree with the legal conclusions the FHWA reached in the 1981 notice of interpretation. However, in the interest of simplicity and work ability, I have decided to replace the so-called 4-month rule with a 14/15-day rule.

*Question 25: Do the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations apply to transportation performed by the federal government of a foreign country, or by a state, provincial, or territorial government of a foreign country?

Guidance: Yes. Although §390.3(f)(2) includes an exception for transportation performed by the Federal government, a State, or any political subdivision of a State, the exceptions are only applicable to government entities in the United States.

*Question 26: Is the operation of fire trucks and rescue vehicles in interstate commerce by a private firefighting company subject to the FMCSRs when the company provides its services under contract to Federal or State agencies?

Guidance: Generally, 49 CFR parts 390-399 (FMCSRs) are not applicable to the operation of fire trucks and rescue vehicles by private contract fire companies while such vehicles are being used in emergency and related operations, i.e., while their personnel are engaged in firefighting or participating in rescue operations, and when their vehicles are returning from the emergency or rescue scene [see 49 CFR 390.3(f)(5)]. In such cases, private contract fire companies? drivers and vehicles are not subject to most of the safety regulations.

In addition to 49 CFR 390.3(f)(5), private contract firefighting companies are also exempted by 49 CFR 390.23 when providing direct assistance during national, regional or local emergencies. The term “emergency,” as used in §390.23, means an occurrence, natural or manmade, that interrupts the delivery of services (such as electricity, medical care, sewer, water, telecommunications, and telecommunications transmissions) or supplies (such as food and fuel), or that otherwise immediately threatens human life or public welfare. The occurrence must result in a declaration of an emer gency by the President of the United States, the Governor of a State, or their authorized representatives having authority to declare emergencies; such as the FMCSA Field Administrator for the geographical area in which the occurrence happens; or by other Federal, State or local government officials having authority to declare emergencies. Direct assistance means transportation or other relief services provided by a motor carrier (including a private contract fire company) or its driver(s) incident to the immediate restoration of essential services or essential supplies. Direct assistance does not include transportation related to long-term rehabilitation of damaged physical infrastructure or routine commercial deliveries after the initial threat to human life and property has passed.

With regard to non-emergency and rescue activities, such as training exercises, emergency preparedness drills, or pre-positioning of personnel and equipment prior to an actual emergency, private contract fire companies must comply with the FMCSR while operating commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce.

*Question 27: Section 390.3(f)(5) provides an exemption from the FMCSRs for the operation of fire trucks and rescue vehicles while such vehicles are being used in emergency and related operations. What is meant by the phrase “emergency and related operations”?

Guidance: The term “emergency,” as used in §390.3(f)(5), includes any occurrence, natural or manmade, that immediately threatens human life or public welfare, and requires the work of firefighters or rescue personnel to respond to the threat. Such occurrences include, but are not limited to, fires, floods, motor vehicle crashes, and medical emergencies. An emergency, however, need not have been formally declared by a governmental authority in order to utilize this exemption.

The term “related operations” includes driving fire trucks or rescue vehicles to the scene of an emergency, and driving such vehicles while returning from the emergency or rescue scene. “Related operations” does not include the pre-positioning of fire trucks or rescue vehicles in anticipation of emergencies, or the use of such vehicles in training or emergency preparedness exercises.

*Question 28: Is the operation of motor vehicles designed or used to transport between 9 and 15 passengers (including the driver), in interstate commerce, by private firefighting companies transporting their employees subject to the FMCSRs?

Guidance: No. Although the 9- to 15-passenger vehicles are being operated in interstate commerce, firefighting companies transporting their own employees would be considered private motor carriers of passengers with regard to the operation of these vehicles because the passengers are not being transported for compensation. Vehicles designed or used to transport 9- to 15-passengers, in interstate commerce, but not for compensation, are excluded from the definition of “commercial motor vehicle” found at 49 CFR 390.5. Therefore, the FMCSRs are not applicable to the operation of such vehicles, even if the firefighting company operates other vehicles that are subject to the safety regulations.

*Question 29: Section 390.3(f)(5) provides an exemption from the FMCSRs for the operation of fire trucks and rescue vehicles while such vehicles are being used in emergency and related operations. Section 390.23 provides an exception to most of the FMCSRs for motor carriers providing direct assistance during an emergency. What are the differences between these provisions when they are applied to contract wildfire suppression services?

Guidance: Section 390.3(f)(5) provides an exception to all of the requirements in Subchapter B of Chapter III, Title 49 of the

Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR Parts 350 through 399) for certain operations of fire trucks and rescue vehicles. By contrast the exception provided by §390.23 is limited to all of the requirements in 49 CFR Parts 390 through 399 and may be used by any motor carrier, including contract wildfire suppression services, providing direct assistance during an emergency, as defined in 49 CFR 390.5.

The exception provided by §390.3(f)(5) may be used by operators of fire trucks and rescue vehicles while such vehicles are used in emergency and related operations, regardless of whether there is an emergency declaration. The exception provided in §390.23 always requires a declaration of an emergency by the President of the United States, the Governor of a State, or their authorized representatives having authority to declare emergencies, such as the FMCSA Field Administrator for the geographical area in which the occurrence happens; or by other Federal, State, or local government officials having authority to declare emergencies.

*Question 30: Section 390.3(f)(5) provides an exemption from the FMCSRs for the operation of fire trucks and rescue vehicles while such vehicles are being used in emergency and related operations. Is this exemption applicable to all fire trucks and rescue vehicles, or is it limited to such vehicles when they are used for emergency and related operations associated with occurrences in or around residential or commercial buildings or structures?

Guidance: Section 390.3(f)(5) is applicable to all fire trucks and rescue vehicles while such vehicles are being used in emergency and related operations, regardless of whether the emergency or related operation involves occurrences in or around residential or commercial buildings or structures. For example, §390.3(f)(5) is applicable to fire trucks and rescue vehicles used by wildfire suppression services when these vehicles are used in emergency and related operations, regardless of whether there are buildings or structures in the immediate vicinity of the fire suppression activities.

*Question 31: Section 390.3(f)(5) provides an exemption from the FMCSRs for the operation of fire trucks and rescue vehicles while such vehicles are being used in emergency and related operations. What is meant by the phrase “fire trucks and rescue vehicles?

Guidance: For the purposes of §390.3(f)(5), the term “fire trucks and rescue vehicles” should be considered to include a wide range of fire and rescue apparatus used by fire fighters, such as, but not limited to, pumper trucks (which may or may not be equipped with water tanks) and rescue trucks (used to transport a crew and various emergency equipment; they may or may not be equipped with water pumping equipment) used primarily or exclusively for fire and rescue operations.

The term “fire trucks and rescue vehicles” should not be considered to include certain wildfire suppression services support vehicles such as: trucks operated by caterers or other food vendors; cargo tank vehicles and trailers operated by water supply companies; cargo tank vehicles and trailers used to transport fuel for helicopters and auxiliary equipment such as generators; vehicles used to transport tents (or other temporary shelters), portable showers, or portable/mobile restrooms; or, buses designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver. Although cargo tank vehicles and trailers operated by water supply companies should not be considered fire trucks or rescue vehicles, wildfire suppression efforts that require significant use of water supply companies are likely to result in the declaration of an emergency, as defined in 49 CFR 390.5. If an emergency is declared, all motor carriers, including water supply companies, providing direct assistance (as defined in 49 CFR 390.5) in responding to the emergency would be covered by §390.23, an exception to all of the requirements of 49 CFR Parts 390 through 399.

*Editor’s Note: This interpretation was issued after the interpretations were published in the Federal Register in April 1997.

§390.5 Definitions.

Question 1: Do the definitions of "farm", "farmer" and "agricultural crops" apply to greenhouse operations?

Guidance: Yes.

Question 2: Is a vehicle used to transport or tow an hydrous ammonia nurse tanks considered a CMV and subject to FMCSRs?

Guidance: Yes, provided the vehicle's GVWR or GCWR meets or exceeds that of a CMV as defined in §390.5 and/or the vehicle transports HM in a quantity that requires placarding.

Question 3: If a vehicle’s GVWR plate and/or VIN number are missing but its actual gross weight is 10,001 pounds or more, may an enforcement officer use the latter instead of GVWR to determine the applicability of the FMCSRs?

Guidance: Yes. The only apparent reason to remove the manufacturer’s GVWR plate or VIN number is to make it impossible for roadside enforcement officers to determine the applicability of the FMCSRs, which have a GVWR threshold of 10,001 pounds. In order to frustrate willful evasion of safety regulations, an officer may therefore presume that a vehicle which does not have a manufacturer’s GVWR plate and/or does not have a VIN number has a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more if: (1) It has a size and configuration normally associated with vehicles that have a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more; and (2) It has an actual gross weight of 10,001 pounds or more.

A motor carrier or driver may rebut the presumption by providing the enforcement officer the GVWR plate, the VIN number or other information of comparable reliability which demonstrates, or allows the officer to determine, that the GVWR of the vehicle is below the jurisdictional weight threshold.

Question 4: If a vehicle with a manufacturer’s GVWR of less than 10,001 pounds has been structurally modified to carry a heavier load, may an enforcement officer use the higher actual gross weight of the vehicle, instead of the GVWR, to determine the applicability of the FMCSRs?

Guidance: Yes. The motor carrier’s intent to increase the weight rating is shown by the structural modifications. When the vehicle is used to perform functions normally performed by a vehicle with a higher GVWR, §390.33 allows an enforcement officer to treat the actual gross weight as the GVWR of the modified vehicle.

Question 5: A driver used by a motor carrier operates a CMV to and from his/her residence out of State. Is this considered interstate commerce?

Guidance: If the driver is operating a CMV at the direction of the motor carrier, it is considered interstate commerce and is subject to the FMCSRs. If the motor carrier is allowing the driver to use the vehicle for private personal transportation, such transportation is not subject to the FMCSRs.

Question 6: Is transporting an empty CMV across State lines for purposes of repair and maintenance considered interstate commerce?

Guidance: Yes. The FMCSRs are applicable to drivers and CMVs in interstate commerce which transport property. The property in this situation is the empty CMV.

Question 7: Does off-road motorized construction equipment meet the definitions of "motor vehicle" and "commercial motor vehicle" as used in §§383.5 and 390.5?

Guidance: No. Off-road motorized construction equipment is outside the scope of these definitions: (1) When operated at construction sites: and (2) when operated on a public road open to unrestricted public travel, provided the equipment is not used in furtherance of a transportation purpose. Occasionally driving such equipment on a public road to reach or leave a construction site does not amount to furtherance of a transportation purpose. Since construction equipment is not designed to operate in traffic, it should be accompanied by escort vehicles or in some other way separated from the public traffic. This equipment may also be subject to State or local permit requirements with regard to escort vehicles, special markings, time of day, day of the week, and/or the specific route.

Question 8: What types of equipment are included in the category of off-road motorized construction equipment?

Guidance: The definition of off-road motorized construction equipment is to be narrowly construed and limited to equipment which, by its design and function is obviously not intended for use, nor is it used on a public road in furtherance of a transportation purpose. Examples of such equipment include motor scrapers, backhoes, motor graders, compactors, tractors, trenchers, bulldozers and railroad track maintenance cranes.

*Question 9: Are mobile cranes operating in interstate commerce considered CMVs, and are they subject to the FMCSRs?

Guidance: The definition of CMV encompasses mobile cranes. Unlike the off-road motorized construction equipment discussed in Guidance Questions 7 and 8 above, mobile cranes are readily capable of traveling at highway speeds, over extended distances, and in the mixed traffic of public highways. Although the functions a crane performs are distinct from the transportation provided by a truck, the ready mobility of the crane depends on its permanent integration with a truck chassis. The truck chassis is equipped with wheels, tires, brakes, a suspension system, and other components. The mobile crane itself, like an empty CMV (see Guidance Question 6), is considered property.

[74 FR 43641, Aug. 27, 2009]

Question 10: Does the FHWA define for-hire transportation of passengers the same as the former ICC did?

Guidance: To the extent FHWA's authority stems from 49 U.S.C. 31502 or other sections of Title 49 which are rooted in the Interstate Commerce Act, the FHWA is bound by judicial precedent and legislative history in interpreting that Act, much of which relates to the operations of the former ICC. However, since the MCSA of 1984 re-established the FHWA’s jurisdictional authority and resulted in a re-promulgation of the FMCSRs, the FHWA has been establishing its own precedents based on "safety" rather than "economics" as the overriding consideration. This has resulted in some deviation in the definition of terms by the two agencies, e.g., commercial zones, for-hire transportation, etc.

The term "for-hire motor carrier" as defined in part 390 means a person engaged in the transportation of goods or passengers for compensation. The FHWA has determined that any business entity that assesses a fee, monetary or otherwise, directly or indirectly for the transportation of passengers is operating as a for-hire carrier. Thus, the transportation for compensation in interstate commerce of passengers by motor vehicles (except in six-passenger taxicabs operating on fixed routes) in the following operations would typically be subject to all parts of the FMCSRs, including part 387: whitewater river rafters, hotel/motel shuttle transporters, rental car shuttle services, etc. These are examples of for-hire carriage because some fee is charged, usually indirectly in a total package charge or other assessment for transportation performed.

Question 11: A company has a truck with a GVWR under 10,001 pounds towing a trailer with a GVWR under 10,001 pounds. However, the GVWR of the truck added to the GVWR of the trailer is greater than 10,001 pounds. Would the company operating this vehicle in interstate commerce have to comply with the FMCSRs?

Guidance: §390.5 of the FMCSRs includes in the definition of CMV a vehicle with a GVWR or GCWR of 10,001 or more pounds. The section further defines GCWR as the value specified by the manufacturer as the loaded weight of a combination (articulated) vehicle. Therefore, if the GVWR of the truck added to the GVWR of the trailer exceeds 10,001 pounds, the driver and vehicle are subject to the FMCSRs.

Question 12: A CMV becomes stuck in a median or on a shoulder, and has had no contact with another vehicle, a pedestrian, or a fixed object prior to becoming stuck. If a tow truck is used to pull the CMV back onto the traveled portion of the road, would this be considered an accident?

Guidance: No.

Question 13: To what extent would the wind shield and/or mirrors of a vehicle have to be damaged in order for it to be considered ‘‘disabling damage’’ as used in the definition of an accident in §390.5?

Guidance: The decision as to whether damage to a windshield and/or mirrors is disabling is left to the discretion of the investigating officer.

Question 14: Is the tillerman who controls the steerable rear axle of a vehicle so equipped a driver subject to the FMCSRs while operating in interstate commerce?

Guidance: Yes. Although the tillerman does not control the vehicle’s speed or braking, the rear-axle steering he/she performs is essential to prevent the trailer from off tracking into other lanes or vehicles or off the highway entirely. Because this function is critical to the safe operation of vehicles with steer able rear axles, the tillerman is a driver.

Question 15: Does the definition of a ‘‘commercial motor vehicle’’ in §390.5 of the FMCSRs include parking lot and/or street sweeping vehicles?

Guidance: If the GVWR of a parking lot or street sweeping vehicle is 10,001 or more pounds, and it operates in interstate commerce, it is a CMV.

Question 16: Does a driver leasing company that hires, assigns, trains, and/or supervises drivers for a private or for-hire motor carrier become a motor carrier as defined by 49 CFR 390.5?

Guidance: No.

Question 17: May a motor carrier that employs owner-operators who have their own operating authority issued by the ICC or the Surface Transportation Board transfer the responsibility for compliance with the FMCSRs to the owner-operators?

Guidance: No. The term ‘‘employee,’’ as defined in §390.5, specifically includes an independent contractor employed by a motor carrier. The existence of operating authority has no bearing upon the issue. The motor carrier is, therefore, responsible for compliance with the FMCSRs by its driver employees, including those who are owner-operators.

Question 18: Must a person who is injured in an accident and immediately receives treatment away from the scene of the accident be transported in an ambulance?

Guidance: No. Any type of vehicle may be used to transport an injured person from the accident scene to the treatment site.

Question 19: What is the meaning of ‘‘immediate’’ as used in the definition of ‘‘accident?’’

Guidance: The term ‘‘immediate’’ means without an unreasonable delay. A person immediately receives medical treatment if he or she is transported directly from the scene of an accident to a hospital or other medical facility as soon as it is considered safe and feasible to move the injured person away from the scene of the accident.

Question 20: A person involved in an incident discovers that he or she is injured after leaving the scene of the incident and receives medical attention at that time. Does the incident meet the definition of accident in 49 CFR 390.5?

Guidance: No. The incident does not meet the definition of accident in 49 CFR 390.5 because the person did not receive treatment immediately after the incident.

Question 21: Do electronic devices which are advertised as radar jammers meet the definition of a radar detector in 49 CFR 390.5?

Guidance: Devices that are said to reflect incoming energy passively or to transmit steadily on the same frequency as police radar units are not radar detectors because they do not detect radio microwaves. Devices that are said to detect and isolate the incoming signal and then to transmit on the same frequency to interfere with the police unit would qualify as radar detectors.

Question 22: Is a motor vehicle drawing a non-self-propelled mobile home that has one or more set of wheels on the roadway, a driveaway-towaway operation?

Guidance: Yes, if the mobile home is a commodity. For example, the mobile home is transported from the manufacturer to the dealer or from the dealer or other seller to the buyer.

Question 23: Can a truck tractor drawing a trailer be a driveaway-towaway operation?

Guidance: Yes, if the trailer is a commodity. For example, the trailer is transported from the manufacturer to the dealer or from the dealer or other seller to the buyer.

Question 24: Are trailers which are stacked upon each other and drawn by a motor vehicle by attachment to the bottom trailer, a driveaway-towaway operation.

Guidance: No. Only the bottom trailer has one or more sets of wheels on the roadway. The other trailers are cargo.

Question 25: The definition of a passenger CMV is a vehicle ‘‘designed to transport’’ more than 15 passengers, including the driver. Does that include standing passengers if the vehicle was specifically designed to accommodate standees?

Guidance: No. ‘‘Designed to transport’’ refers only to the number of designated seats; it does not include areas suitable, or even designed, for standing passengers.

Question 26: What is considered a ‘‘public road’’?

Guidance: A public road is any road under the jurisdiction of a public agency and open to public travel or any road on private property that is open to public travel.

*Question 27, revised: A person is transported to a hospital from the scene of a commercial motor vehicle traffic accident.

In one situation, the person undergoes observation or a “checkup. Is this considered “medical treatment,” making the CMV occurrence an “accident” for purposes of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations?

In another situation, the person undergoes x-ray examination or is given a prescription, but is released from the facility without being admitted as an inpatient. Is the x-ray or prescription considered “medical treatment,” making the CMV occurrence and “accident” for purposes of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations?

Guidance: In the first situation, no. A person who does not receive treatment for diagnosed injuries or other medical intervention directly related to the accident, has not received “medical treatment” as that term is used in §390.5.

In the second situation, yes. A person who undergoes x-ray examination (or other imaging, such as computed tomography or CT), or is given prescription medication (or the prescription itself), has received “medical treatment.”

*Question 28, revised: A driver of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) is changing lanes. A passenger car driver near the CMV loses control, leaves the roadway, and is involved in an accident. The passenger car must be towed. Is the CMV considered to be “involved” under the definition of “accident” in §390.5?

Guidance: The CMV would not be considered “involved” unless the police investigation officer determines that the CMV caused or contributed to the accident.

*Question 29: A corporation (the parent corporation) owns subsidiary corporations that are for-hire motor carriers, each having their own separate operating authorities. The parent corporation does not operate commercial motor vehicles. However, the parent corporation exercises or retains management supervision, including supervision for safety compliance, and provides policy/procedural manuals and driver safety manuals for the subsidiary corporations (forhire motor carriers). Is the parent corporation considered a motor carrier as defined by 49 CFR 390.5?

Guidance: No. A motor carrier is defined in 49 CFR 390.5 as a for-hire motor carrier or a private motor carrier. The term includes a motor carrier’s agents, officers and representatives as well as employees responsible for hiring, supervising, training, assigning, or dispatching of drivers and employees concerned with the installation, inspection, and maintenance of motor vehicle equipment and/or accessories. As long as the parent corporation does not engage in the transportation of goods or passengers for compensation (i.e., exercising daily control over drivers and equipment; and, in the case of a for-hire motor carrier, soliciting customers, and billing and collecting freight charges), it would not be considered a motor carrier. The exercise of managerial control by the parent corporation by establishing operational policies and procedures, or through other forms of general oversight, does not, in and of itself, make it a motor carrier under FMCSA regulations.

*Question 30: Does an explosion or fire in a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) that has not collided with other vehicles or stationary objects meet the definition of an “accident” under §390.5?

Guidance: Fires have been included in the definition of “accidents” since 1962. However, in an effort to simplify the regulatory text, the agency removed the specific references to fires, rollovers, and other noncollision accidents in 1972. As the agency indicated, however, its intent was to include all of these items as accidents (37 FR 18079, September 7, 1972).

A fire or explosion in a CMV operating on a highway in interstate or intrastate commerce would be considered an “accident” if it resulted in a fatality; bodily injuries requiring the victim to be transported immediately to a medical facility away from the scene; or disabling damage requiring the CMV to be towed. A collision is not a pre-requisite to an “accident” under §390.5.

Any CMV fires that meet the accident criteria in 49 CFR 390.5 — that is, fires that occur in a commercial motor vehicle in transport on a roadway customarily open to the public which result in a fatality, bodily injury requiring immediate medical attention away from the scene of the accident, or disabling damage requiring a vehicle to be towed — will be considered in the safety fitness determination. As indicated in Appendix B to 49 CFR Part 385, FMCSA will continue to consider preventability when a motor carrier contests a safety rating by presenting compelling evidence that the recordable rate is not a fair means of evaluating its accident factor.

With regard to fires, preventability will be determined according to the following: If a motor carrier, that exercises normal judgment and foresight could have anticipated the possibility of the fire that in fact occurred, and avoided it by taking steps within its control — short of suspending operations — which would not have risked causing another kind of mishap, the fire was preventable.

*Question 31: What location may a motor carrier designate as its "principal place of business"?

Guidance: In instances where a motor carrier has more than one terminal or office, the regulations do not explicitly place a restriction on which location a motor carrier may designate as its principal place of business. The definition states that such a location is "normally" the carrier's headquarters; the rule does not require motor carriers to use the company's corporate headquarters as its principal place of business. However, motor carriers are limited to using an actual place of business of the motor carrier. Moreover, a motor carrier may designate as its principal place of business only locations that contain offices of the motor carrier's senior-most management executives, management officials or employees responsible for the administration, management and oversight of safety operations and compliance with the FMCSRs and Hazardous Materials Regulations. In determining its principal place of business a motor carrier must consider the following factors: (a) The relative importance of the activities performed at each location, and, if this factor is not determinative, then (b) time spent at each location by motor carrier management or corporate officers.

FMCSA authorized representatives will use the above two factors in determining whether a motor carrier has designated an appropriate location as its principal place of business. In addition, FMCSA may also consider whether the location is operated, controlled or owned by the motor carrier, whether operations relating to the transportation of persons or property regularly take place at the designated location, whether any of the employees of the motor carrier regularly report to the location for duty, whether any leased or owned vehicles of the company are maintained on the premises, and whether any of the records required by parts 382, 387, 390, 391, 395, 396 and 397 are maintained on the premises. In the event a carrier does not designate a qualifying location as its principal place of business, FMCSA may initiate appropriate enforcement action or take action regarding the carrier's USDOT registration.

A motor carrier with multiple business locations may maintain some records at locations of the motor carrier other than, or in addition to, its principal place of business. However, after a request has been made by an FMCSA authorized representative, a motor carrier with multiple business locations must make records required by parts 382, 387, 390, 391, 395, 396 and 397 available for inspection at the principal place of business or other location specified by the special agent or authorized representative within 48 hours. Pursuant to § 390.29, "Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal holidays are excluded from the computation of the 48-hour period of time." A motor carrier with a single business location must make records required by parts 382, 387, 390, 391, 395, 396 and 397 available upon request.

A motor carrier may not designate as its principal place of business any location where the motor carrier is not engaged in business operations related to the transportation of persons or property. For example, post office box centers or commercial courier service establishments that receive and hold mail or packages for third party pickup may not be designated a "principal place of business" (other than by the courier service provider itself). A motor carrier may not designate the office of a consultant, service agent, or attorney as the motor carrier's principal place of business if the motor carrier is not engaged in operations related to the transportation of persons or property at that location.

[74 FR 37654, July 29, 2009]

*Question 32: May a motor carrier with a single business location, including a private residence, designate a different location as its "principal place of business"?

Guidance: No. The definition of "principal place of business" in 49 CFR 390.5 allows a carrier with multiple terminals or offices to designate a single terminal or office as its primary business location for identification purposes. Consistent with this definition, a motor carrier with a single place of business may designate only its actual place of business as the "principal place of business." Notwithstanding this restriction, a motor carrier and an authorized representative of FMCSA may agree that a compliance review or other investigation of a motor carrier will be conducted at a mutually acceptable location other than the motor carrier's principal place of business.

[74 FR 37654, July 29, 2009]

Question 33: Are crashes involving motorists striking attenuator trucks while the impact attenuators or crash cushions are deployed included within the definition of ‘‘accident’’ with regard to the motor carrier responsible for the operation of the attenuator truck?

Guidance: No. Attenuator trucks are highway safety vehicles equipped with an impact attenuating crash cushion intended to reduce the risks of injuries and fatalities resulting from crashes in construction work zones. Because these vehicles are deployed at construction work zones to prevent certain crashes through the use of flashing lights and to reduce the severity of crashes when motorists do not take appropriate action to avoid personnel and objects in the construction zone, it is expected that these vehicles will be struck from time to time while the impact attenuators or crash cushions are deployed. Therefore, such events are not considered accidents and the recordkeeping requirements of 49 CFR 390.15, Assistance in investigations and special studies, are not applicable with regard to the motor carrier responsible for the operation of the attenuator truck. If however, a commercial motor vehicle, as defined in 49 CFR 390.5, strikes an attenuator truck, this event would be considered an accident for the motor carrier responsible for the operation of the vehicle that hits the attenuator truck.

[80 FR 15914, Mar. 26, 2015]

*Editor's Note: This interpretation was issued after the interpretations were published in the Federal Register in April 1997.

§390.9 State and local laws, effect on.

Question 1: If an interstate driver gets stopped by a State enforcement officer for an inspection, would the inspecting officer be enforcing the Federal regulations or State regulations?

Guidance: A State enforcement officer can only enforce State laws. However, under the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Pro gram, quite often State laws are the same as or similar to the FMCSRs.

§390.15 Assistance in investigations and special studies.

Question 1: May a motor carrier create an accident register of its own, or is there a specified form that must be used?

Guidance: There is no specified form. A motor carrier may create or use any accident register as long as it includes the elements required by §390.15.

Question 2: Would the accident report retention requirement in §390.15(b)(2) include an ‘‘Adjuster’s Report’’ that is normally considered to be an internal document of an insurance company?

Guidance: No. The intent of §390.15(b)(2) is that motor carriers maintain copies of all documents which the motor carrier is required by the insurance company to complete and/or maintain. §390.15(b)(2) does not require motor carriers to maintain documents, such as ‘‘Adjuster’s Reports,’’ that are typically internal documents of the insurance company.

Question 3: What types of documents must a motor carrier retain to support its accident register and be in compliance with §390.15(b)?

Guidance: The documents required by §390.15(b)(2) include all information about a particular accident generated by a motor carrier or driver to fulfill its accident reporting obligations to State or other governmental entities or that motor carrier’s insurer. The language of paragraph (b)(2) does not require a motor carrier to seek out, obtain, and retain copies of accident reports prepared by State investigators or insurers.

*Question 4: Does a foreign-based motor carrier’s accident register have to include accidents that occur in Canada or Mexico?

Guidance: Motor carriers must record accidents occurring within the U.S. and on segments of interstate movements into Canada between the U.S.-Canadian border and the first physical delivery location of a Canadian consignee. The FHWA further believes its regulations require the documentation of accidents for segments of interstate movements out of Canada between the last physical pick-up location in Canada and the U.S.-Canadian border. The same would be true for movements between the U.S.-Mexican border and a point in Mexico. However, the FHWA does not have authority over Canadian and Mexican motor carriers that operate within their own countries where the transportation does not involve movements into or out of the United States.

*Editor’s Note: This interpretation was issued after the interpretations were published in the Federal Register in April 1997.

§390.17 General requirements and information

Question 1: Do the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations prohibit "texting" while driving a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce?

Guidance: Yes. Although the current safety regulations do not include an explicit prohibition against texting while driving by truck and bus drivers, the general restriction against the use of additional equipment and accessories that decrease the safety of operation of commercial motor vehicles applies to the use of electronic devices for texting. Handheld or other wireless electronic devices that are brought into a CMV are considered "additional equipment and accessories" within the context of § 390.17. "Texting" is the review of, or preparation and transmission of, typed messages through any such device or the engagement in any form of electronic data retrieval or electronic data communication through any such device. Texting on electronic devices while driving decreases the safety of operation of the commercial vehicles on which the devices are used because the activity involves a combination of visual, cognitive and manual distraction from the driving task. Research has shown that during 6-second intervals immediately preceding safety-critical events (e.g., crashes, near crashes, lane departure), texting drivers took their eyes off the forward roadway an average of 4.6 seconds. Therefore, the use of electronic devices for texting by CMV operators while driving on public roads in interstate commerce decreases safety and is prohibited by 49 CFR 390.17.

[75 FR 4306, Jan. 27, 2010]

*Editor's Note: This interpretation was issued after the interpretations were published in the Federal Register in April 1997.

§390.21 Marking of CMVs.

Question 1: What markings must be displayed on a CMV when used by two or more motor carriers?

Guidance: The markings of the motor carrier responsible for the operation of the CMV must be displayed at the time of transportation. If 2 or more names are on the vehicle, the name of the operating motor carrier must be preceded by the words ‘‘operated by.’’

§390.23 Relief from regulations.

Question 1: Does §390.23 create an exemption from the FMCSRs each and every time the delivery of electricity is interrupted, no matter how isolated or minor the occurrence?

Guidance: The rule creates an exemption from the FMCSRs when interruptions of electricity are severe enough to trigger a declaration of an emergency by a public official authorized to do so.

An interruption of electricity that does not produce a declaration by a public official is not an emergency for purposes of the regulation and does not exempt a motor carrier or driver from the FMCSRs. A call reporting a downed power line, whether directed to the State police or a public utility company, does not create a declared emergency.

The authority to declare emergencies has been delegated to different officials in the various States. The FHWA has not attempted to list these officials. In order to utilize the exemption provided by §390.23, drivers and motor carriers must therefore ascertain that a declaration of an emergency was made by a State or local official authorized to do so.

Question 2: §390.23(a) provides that parts 390 through 399 do not apply to any motor carrier or driver operating a CMV to provide direct assistance in an emergency. Is a motor carrier or driver required to keep a record of the driver’s on-duty or driving time while providing relief?

Guidance: No.

Question 3: After providing emergency relief under §390.23, what on-duty hours must a driver use to determine how much off-duty time he/she must have before returning to the service of the employing motor carrier?

Guidance: The driver must total the number of hours worked while the driver actually provided direct assistance to the emergency relief effort.

*Question 4: Upon termination of direct assistance to a regional or local emergency relief effort, as specified in §390.23(a), may utility company line crews return directly to the motor carrier’s terminal or the driver’s normal work reporting location without complying with Parts 390-399?

Guidance: Yes, provided drivers who ask for immediate rest are given 8 consecutive hours off-duty before returning to the terminal or other work reporting location. Because the returning vehicles are transporting only crew members, tools, equipment, or materials not used in the emergency relief effort, they are considered to be “return(ing) empty” for purposes of §390.23(b).

*Question 5: When an interstate tow truck operator responds to a request for assistance from a Federal, State or local police officer to move wrecked or disabled motor vehicles, what should the Record of Duty Status (RODS) required by Section 395.8 reflect for the time spent in the exempt status?

Guidance: The time spent responding to the police call is exempt under Section 390.23(a)(3). The entry on the RODS for the time spent in this activity should be entered as “exempt,” or “exempt under Section 390.23(a)(3).” Any time logged by the driver while engaged in activities that are NOT exempt must be accounted for on the RODS, but exempt time is not included in the computation of maximum driving time under Section 395.3. Please note that this exemption is only operative during the time that the tow truck operator is providing direct assistance to the emergency, or twenty-four hours from the time of the request, whichever is less. The driver and the motor carrier are also at all times subject to the prohibitions of Section 392.3 pertaining to ill or fatigued drivers. Section 390.23(c) applies to local and regional emergencies, not tow truck emergency operations.

*Editor’s Note: This interpretation was issued after the interpretations were published in the Federal Register in April 1997.

§390.31 Copies of records or documents.

Question 1: May motor carriers use electronic methods to store records or documents to satisfy a document retention requirement in Chapter III of Subtitle B of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR parts 300–399) ?

Guidance: Yes. Anyone may, but is not required to, use electronic methods to create and store records or documents to satisfy document retention requirements in Chapter III of Subtitle B of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (49 parts CFR 300–399). This guidance applies only to documents required to be generated and maintained or exchanged by private parties, regardless of whether FMCSA subsequently requires them to be produced or displayed to FMCSA staff or other parties entitled to access. This guidance does not apply to documents filed directly with FMCSA. The Agency, however, has already established electronic filing methods for certain documents. Interested parties can find out about available filing methods by consulting specific program information on FMCSA's Web site (http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov).

Question 2: How much time does a motor carrier have to produce records if the motor carrier maintains all records in an electronic format?

Guidance: A motor carrier must produce records within the time frame FMCSA’s regulations require, regardless of whether the motor carrier maintains its records in an electronic or paper format. For example, if Agency rules require that a document be produced upon demand, you must be able to provide the Agency with an accurate copy of your electronic record upon demand. Similarly, if you are a motor carrier with multiple offices and are allowed 48 hours to produce a document in accordance with 49 CFR 390.29, you must be able to provide the Agency with an accurate copy of your electronic record within 48 hours.

*Question 3: Using record scanning technology, these requirements can be fulfilled. Is my understanding of § 390.31(c) correct that once qualifying documents have been suitably scanned, original paper documents may be destroyed?

Guidance: Yes, scanned records, which include a verifiable signature, would fulfill the requirements of §390.31 and the original paper documents may be destroyed as stated in §390.31(c).

*Question 4: If my understanding of 390.31 and its associated interpretations is correct, will this negate the necessity to maintain the original road test document as required by § 391.31(g)(1)?

Guidance: Yes, as long as the road test document has been properly scanned.

*Question 5: What is an electronic signature?

Guidance: An electronic signature is a method of signing an electronic communication that: (1) Identifies and authenticates a particular person as the source of the electronic communication; and (2) indicates such person’s approval of the information contained in the electronic communication. An electronic signature may be made using any available technology that otherwise satisfies FMCSA’s requirements.

*Question 6: What is an electronic ‘‘captured image’’ signature and does it qualify as an electronic signature?

Guidance: An electronic "captured image" signature is a scripted name or legal mark that, while conventionally created on paper, may also be created using electronic devices. For example, many supermarkets and package delivery services use electronic captured image technology when they permit customers to sign their names in script using a stylus on an electronic pad. This qualifies as an electronic signature, so long as the signature and its related document are electronically bound and can be reproduced together.

*Question 7: May anyone use electronic signatures to satisfy a requirement in Chapter III of Subtitle B of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR parts 300–399) that a party sign or certify a document?

Guidance: Yes. Anyone may, but is not required to, use electronic signatures to satisfy the requirements of Chapter III of Subtitle B of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR parts 300–399) that he or she sign or certify a document. This guidance applies only to documents requiring signatures that are generated and maintained or exchanged by private parties, regardless of whether the Agency subsequently requires them to be produced or displayed to FMCSA staff or other parties entitled to access. This guidance does not apply to documents filed directly with the Agency. The Agency, however, has already established electronic filing methods for certain documents. Interested parties can find out about available filing methods by consulting specific program information on FMCSA's Web site (http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov).

*Question 8: Are motor carriers and other interested parties required to use electronic methods?

Guidance: No. Interested entities may choose whether or not to use electronic methods or traditional paper methods. Where there are two parties to a transaction, both parties must agree to conduct business using electronic methods.

*Question 9: Will a document generated using any available electronic method satisfy the requirements of Chapter III of Subtitle B of Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations?

Guidance: No. An electronic document must fulfill the same function as a paper document. Documents generated using electronic methods may be used only if they accurately reflect the information in the record and remain accessible in a form that can be accurately reproduced for later reference. Documents generated using electronic methods will not be considered the legal equivalent of traditional paper documents if they are not capable of being retained and accurately reproduced for reference by any party entitled to access. For example, if FMCSA rules require that a document be produced upon demand, you must be able to provide the Agency with an accurate copy of your electronic record upon demand. Similarly, if you are a motor carrier with multiple offices and are allowed 48 hours to produce a document in accordance with 49 CFR 390.29, you must be able to provide the Agency with an accurate copy of your electronic record within 48 hours. It would not be sufficient to display the information on your computer terminal in your place of business. You must produce a copy that the Agency can refer to at a later date. Similarly, it would not be sufficient to provide a document with incomplete information or without a signature (whether electronic or handwritten), if required. Your electronic storage system must be capable of transferring a complete, accurate copy of the document to the Agency. Unless the agent requesting the information specifies otherwise, you should be prepared to produce paper copies of the electronically-stored records or documents within the applicable time frame. This means that if you are required to produce documents on demand, those documents may be stored electronically, so long as you can produce them in accordance with the Agency’s substantive requirements (e.g., immediately and without risk of losing or altering data). For an electronic document to be the legal equivalent of a paper document, it must be the functional equivalent with respect to integrity, accuracy and accessibility.

*Question 10: If FMCSA or another agency entitled to access documents requests that I produce a copy of a document or signature, may I produce an electronic copy?

Guidance: Yes, however, you must be able to reproduce or transmit the document so the Agency can refer to it at a later date. The acceptable method of transmission may vary, depending on compatibility with the information systems and how the Agency or other entity entitled to access plans to use the document. Under some circumstances, electronic transfer may be acceptable. In other cases, you may be required to print paper copies of the electronically-stored records or documents. You should be prepared to produce paper copies within the time frame specified in the applicable regulations, unless the particular investigator specifically advises you that he or she is capable of accepting electronically transferred copies.

*Question 11: May I use electronic methods to generate, sign, maintain and/or exchange any record the FMCSA regulations require without requesting an exemption or obtaining prior permission?

Guidance: You may use electronic methods to generate, sign, maintain and/or exchange any document that is generated and maintained or exchanged by private parties, regardless of whether FMCSA subsequently requires them to be produced or displayed to Agency staff or other parties entitled to access. You do not need to request an exemption or obtain prior permission so long as the electronic record meets all of the regulation’s substantive requirements and remains accessible in a form that can be accurately reproduced for later reference. (This does not apply to documents filed directly with the Agency. See Question No. 6.) Examples of documents generated, maintained or exchanged by private parties include, but are not limited to: Employment applications, driver histories and other qualification records, leases formed under 49 CFR part 376, driver-vehicle inspection reports, and records of duty status. These are only examples of documents about which FMCSA received specific questions and is not an exhaustive list of the types of documents that can be generated, signed, maintained or exchanged electronically.

*Question 12: May I convert a paper document to an electronic document by typing the substantive information on the paper document into an electronic format such as a database?

Guidance: By typing the substantive information from a paper document into an electronic format such as a database, you are creating a new electronic record, not creating an electronic copy of the original. While you may generate and maintain such documents for your own use, they do not take the place of the original documents. To preserve an accurate copy of the original paper document, you must use scanning or other ‘‘image capture’’ technology. See Questions 3 and 4 for additional guidance.

*Question 13: Is an electronic signature valid if a person only has access to an excerpt or summary at the time he or she signs a document?

Guidance: No. If you only provide an excerpt or summary at the time someone signs a document you may not subsequently attach his or her electronic signature to the complete document.

*Editor’s Note: This interpretation was issued after the interpretations were published in the Federal Register in April 1997.

Special Topics – Serious Pattern of Violations

Question 1: What constitutes a “serious pattern” of violations?

Guidance: A serious pattern constitutes violations that are both widespread and continuing over a period of time. A serious pattern is more than isolated violations. A serious pattern does not require a specific number of violations.

Last updated: Thursday, February 27, 2020