Mass. USDOT Number Required for All CMVs

US DOT Number is required on all trucks.Enforcement Delayed until January 1, 2019

As of September 1, 2018, intrastate motor carriers in Massachusetts are required to obtain and display a United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) number per 540 CMR 2.22, the Commercial Marking section of the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) regulations. Strict enforcement of the new regulations has been delayed until January 1, 2019 to allow time to obtain and display the numbers.

Who must Register?

This applies to motor carriers operating the following commercial motor vehicles (CMVs):
  • Operating in intrastate commerce having a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds.
  • Used in the transportation of hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placarding.
  • Designed to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, used in intrastate commerce in Massachusetts.

If a company operates a subject vehicle, it must be permanently marked with a USDOT number assigned in a manner conforming to the provisions of 49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 390.21. Please note that the requirement for a USDOT number is based upon the definition above, regardless of how any individual vehicle may be registered with the Massachusetts RMV.

How do I Register?

To obtain a USDOT Number, visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website.  From there, follow the Registration link to obtain an intrastate USDOT number. The company will be issued a single USDOT number that must be displayed on all CMVs as defined above that the company operates, including leased vehicles. There is no charge to obtain this number from the USDOT-FMCSA.

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John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599

States that Ban Hand-held Devices


cell phoneIntrastate Operations . . .

Do you know the U.S. jurisdictions that ban the use of use of hand-held devices while driving? No?

Well, here they are:

California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, *Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia.

*The Georgia House Bill 673 also known as the “Hands Free Law” went into effect on July 1, 2018.

A “wireless telecommunications device” is defined as a cellular telephone, a portable telephone, a text-messaging device, a personal digital assistant, a stand-alone computer, a global positioning system receiver or substantially similar portable wireless device that is used to initiate or receive communication, information or data.


Under the new law in Georgia, any person operating a motor vehicle is prohibited from:

(1) Physically holding or supporting, with any part of his or her body a wireless telecommunications device (except when using an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct voice-based communication) or stand-alone electronic device;

(2) Writing, sending, or reading any text based communication, including a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device. This prohibition does not apply to a voice-based communication which is automatically converted by a device to be sent as a message in a written form, or to a device used for navigation or global positioning system purposes;

(3) Watching a video or movie on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device other than watching data related to the navigation of such vehicle; or

(4) Recording or broadcasting a video on a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device (except for electronic devices used for the sole purpose of continuously recording or broadcasting video within or outside of the motor vehicle).

Note: anyone making or uploading videos for YouTube using a handheld telecommunication device or other digital recorder while driving would be in violation. And, of course, watching a movie on a cell phone while driving is a major no-no.


1.    Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators can only use one button to begin or end a phone call
2.    Cannot reach for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device that it no longer requires the driver to be a seated position or properly restrained by a safety belt

The only exceptions are emergencies and reporting hazards, and use by utility personnel or first responders in the course of their work.

Thank you for reading this.

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John Taratuta, Safety & Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599

FDA Safety Course for Food Haulers


Highway truck

Training Requirements

Motor carriers hauling food products need to maintain training records for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as required by the ‘Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food Rule.’

If you are involved with food or temperature-controlled food cargo in the supply chain, the rule likely applies. See the chart below for any exceptions to the rule.

Smaller fleets are exempt from this rule if they have less than $500,000 in gross annual revenue.

The requirements of the new rule include:

  • Trailers are properly pre-cooled
  • Proof of shipment temperatures can be provided
  • Standardized operating procedures are in effect for the cleaning, sanitizing and inspection of the trailer.

The FDA has a new online training course for motor carriers and their drivers. Click here: Sanitary Transportation Rule training.

sanitary transportation rule


I took the course. There are several modules and a few questions after each part. Depending on how fast you read, it will take 20 to 40 minutes. At the end there is a form to print a out a certificate. Keep a copy for your records, and perhaps write the date on the back.

If your company is in the food supply chain, I would recommend having all of your drivers take this online FDA course.

FDA Food Safety Certificate

Thank you for reading this.

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John Taratuta, Risk Engineer, 989-474-9599



Hiring? Revised Form I-9 Requirement


The New I-9 Form

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a revised version of the I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

Form I-9 is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. All U.S. employers must ensure proper completion of Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States.

This includes citizens and noncitizens. Both employees and employers (or authorized representatives of the employer) must complete the form. On the form, an employee must attest to his or her employment authorization. The employee must also present his or her employer with acceptable documents evidencing identity and employment authorization. The employer must examine the employment eligibility and identity document(s) an employee presents to determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and to relate to the employee and record the document information on the Form I-9. The list of acceptable documents can be found on the last page of the form. Employers must retain Form I-9 for a designated period and make it available for inspection by authorized government officers. NOTE: State agencies may use Form I-9. Also, some agricultural recruiters and referrers for a fee may be required to use Form I-9. —USCIS


What’s New?

The latest I-9 form has a revised List of Acceptable Documents and specifically an updated List C, to include the most current version of the certification or report of birth—issued by the U.S. State Department.

What’s Required?

Failure to comply by the Sept. 18, 2017 deadline can result in significant fines.

For more information on the I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, please visit the revised I-9 page. It is recommended to immediately put the updated I-9 form into use.

Thank you for reading this.

Free Windows 10 Upgrade Ends Shortly

Windows 10 Offer

Hurry! Hurry Hurry!

If you have purchased a device running Windows 7 or 8.1 in the last year or so, like I have, then you should qualify for the free Windows 10 Upgrade. But like any offer, this one expires in a few days on July 29, 2016, the one-year anniversary of the operating system’s initial release.

After July 29, the full price will apply for either the home or work editions.

The main reason for updating, in my opinion, is for the enhanced security features and malware protection.

Don’t wait until the last minute to download the product. Windows 10 has been noted for taking a while for the download. I’m assuming millions of people will have put off upgrading, as I have, and that could slow down things, too.

For more information, please visit Microsoft.

Thank you for reading this.

Are You DOT Regulated? One Neat Trick from Loss Control


Stop! In the Name of the Law . . .

You are driving your work truck down the road, pulling a trailer, when flashing emergency lights appear in the mirrors. You pull over to let the police car pass, but lo and behold, the police car pulls behind you. You are puzzled because you know your equipment and driving habits are good.

You might be a contractor, builder, racer, have a masonry or landscaping business. There might not be a trailer, if you are a welder, or operate a service truck,

You’ve never had a problem before. But this time it’s different. Perhaps your work took you across the state line (interstate commerce). Perhaps you passed a weigh station. Perhaps you drove on an interstate highway.

And you’re getting cited. Perhaps it’s a warning ticket or even a $100 fine.

What did you do? You have been ticketed for failure to register for, and to display U.S. DOT Numbers.

When did that start?

Oh — about thirty years ago, says the officer.

It Doesn’t End There . . .

If you’re lucky, you won’t be cited for not carrying a DOT medical certificate, not having an annual (periodic) inspection on your vehicle (truck and trailer), and not keeping a Record of Duty Status (RODS) or an exemption sheet.

Once you register for a U.S.DOT number, there are some record-keeping requirements that go along with it. Not having a DOT number is not a legitimate or legal excuse for failure to follow these requirements.

How Do I Know . . .

“If you have a truck or trailer with company signs, and/or a trailer with more than one axle, I will be writing you a ticket if you do not have a U.S. DOT number.” DPS Officer

The rules for interstate commerce (movement of goods or people between state or national lines) seem fairly straightforward . . .

You need a U.S. DOT number if you operate in interstate commerce and:

• Operate vehicles that are over 10,000 lbs,
• Transport between 9 and 15 passengers (including the driver) for compensation,
• Transport 16 or more passengers, or
• Haul hazardous materials.

A continuation of an interstate trip is also considered interstate commerce. Examples would include: picking up passengers from another state at an airport, moving product from a dock that came from another state or country, or making the final delivery of a partial load that has crossed the state lines.

If you do any of these things, the above rules would apply, even if your vehicle does not cross state lines.

Do I need a U.S. DOT number if I operate in Intrastate Commerce?

Most states follow the federal guidelines for interstate commerce. If your vehicle is rated at 10,001 pounds or more, you haul people or hazmat, then you need a DOT number.

A number of states, however, follow their own guidelines and use a 26,001 GVWR threshold as the definition of a Commercial Motor Vehicle. Some states may use a lessor weight as 18,001 pounds GVWR.

From personal experience, asking your state DOT or motor carrier enforcement for this information is generally difficult. The people with the exact knowledge are most likely in the field, not sitting by the phone waiting for your call.

Another information source is a state trade or professional association. They may have a knowledgeable compliance person on staff, depending on the size of the association.

The quickest and perhaps most reliable method to determine state DOT requirements is to go directly to your state code, via a Google search. Search for your state’s definition of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

Ex: “Colorado CMV definition” or “CO code CMV definition”

Several searches should narrow down your state’s exact definition of a CMV. Once you know your state’s definition of a CMV, you will know what state rules you need to follow.

Thank you for reading this.

The DOT Road Test (Part 1)

Peterbilt and 53' Great Dane

Testing 1-2-3-4

In the age of everyone-gets-a-gold-star (or two, for bothering to show up), does the word test have a place anymore?

It does in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, Part 391.31, simply titled ‘Road Test.’

Best in class employers conduct a driver performance test for every Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) driver they hire. But it doesn’t end there.

Top employers not only road test new driver candidates but conduct driver check rides from time to time or whenever drivers are having safety performance issues. Top companies road-test their drivers every year or so for coaching purposes – or as part of their post-accident policy.


The purpose of the road test is to evaluate the driver’s ability to drive safely. Safe operations are determined by a driver’s attitude as much as by his or her mechanical driving skills.

Who should conduct the Road Test?

Any competent driver who is qualified with experience in the type of vehicle being driven may conduct a road test. The examiner needs to be a thoroughly qualified operator. Generally this would be your most senior driver. Sometimes trucking companies use their mechanic to conduct road tests. If so, the mechanic should have some actual driving experience.

The test shall be given by a person who is competent to evaluate and determine whether the person who takes the test has demonstrated that he/she is capable of operating the commercial motor vehicle, and associated equipment, that the motor carrier intends to assign him/her.

§ 391.31 (b)

This section says you cannot test yourself.

Tip 1: For non-CDL type vehicles, owners and managers can be given a road test by an employee-driver.

Tip 2: The same person should administer all road tests in the same way, on the same route.

Tip 3: The road test may be conducted before administering the DOT pre-employment drug screen.After receiving results of the drug test and after a job-offer, the DOT physical can be administered.

If a motor carrier cannot find someone within the organization, they may choose someone from outside of the organization to conduct the road test. Additionally:

  • The examiner needs to be familiar with the road test route and the testing procedures.
  • The examiner needs to practice administering the test to a regular licensed driver qualified on that type vehicle.

What Should the Road Test Cover?

Any well-administered road test should cover the driver’s/applicant’s technical and physical skills associated with driving a commercial vehicle as well as the driver’s/applicant’s attitude while driving.

The regulations specify eight areas to be tested, depending on the type of vehicle, including:

  1. Pre-trip inspection.
  2. Hooking/unhooking a trailer.
  3. Placing the CMV in operation.
  4. Use of the CMV’s controls and emergency equipment.
  5. Operating the CMV in traffic and while passing other motor vehicles.
  6. Turning the CMV.
  7. Braking and slowing the CMV by means other than braking, and
  8. Backing and parking the commercial motor vehicle.

These are the minimum areas on which a driver is to be tested.

Continued in the next blog . . .

Thank you for reading this.

What is the DOT’s New Entrant Safety Audit?


§ 385.311: What will the safety audit consist of?
The safety audit will consist of a review of the new entrant’s safety management systems and a sample of required records to assess compliance with the FMCSRs, applicable HMRs and related record-keeping requirements as specified in appendix A of this part. The areas for review include, but are not limited to, the following:
(a) Driver qualification;
(b) Driver duty status;
(c) Vehicle maintenance;
(d) Accident register; and
(e) Controlled substances and alcohol use and testing requirements. (Part 385.311)

If you have registered for a new DOT Number, depending on your operations, you may be subject to a New Entrant Safety Audit. If so, you will be notified several weeks in advance.

The safety audit is an examination of the new entrant’s safety management systems, including records and documentation to see if your operations are compliant with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), any applicable Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMRs) and related record-keeping requirements as specified in Appendix A of Part 385. The areas for review include, but are not limited to, the following:

(a) Driver qualification – Parts 383 and 391;
(b) Driver duty status – Part 395;
(c) Vehicle maintenance Parts 393 and 396;
(d) Accident register and copies of accident reports Part 390; and
(e) Controlled substances and alcohol use and testing. Part 382

Other areas looked at may include:

• Commercial driver’s license standard violations Part 383;
• Inadequate levels of financial responsibility Part 387;
• The use of unqualified drivers Part 391;
• Improper use and driving of motor vehicles Part 392;
• Unsafe vehicles operating on the highways Part 393;
• The use of fatigued drivers Part 395;
• Transportation of hazardous materials, driving and parking rule violations Part 397;
• Violation of hazardous materials regulations Parts 170 to 177;
• Hazardous materials incidents – Part 171.

Safety audits do not result in safety ratings.

Biggest Problem Areas

It’s no secret how new entrants fail the safety audit. The FMCSA recently reported on a new entrant who admitted he was too busy to concern himself with learning about the federal regulations. This wasn’t what the auditor wanted to hear.

Not responding to a request for an audit, or not having requested records is another way not to pass. Not responding (short of a “life or death” type of circumstance) can result in a cancellation of the DOT number and the need to re-apply in 30 days. In the mean time, you would not be able to operate your DOT regulated vehicle(s) in interstate commerce (and intrastate in some states).

Certain rule violations are considered automatic failures. Drug and alcohol compliance is high on the list. So is having a qualified driver, a vehicle with a periodic inspection and insurance, and adherence to Hours of Service rules.

Failure is Not An Option

A new entrant who fails the safety audit may be allowed to submit a written corrective action, within 45 or 65 days, depending on the type of their operations. Waiting to the last day to submit the documentation is not a good idea, as it needs to be approved.

The good news is that most new entrants will be successful, if they follow the federal regulations and keep good records (if it’s not documented— it’s not done)..

False Accusations Abound!

bad1The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws. — Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome

The more laws and restrictions, there are, the poorer people become. The more rules and regulations, the more thieves and robbers. Lev Kopelev

“You Were Texting and Not Wearing a Seat Belt.”

A while back a truck driver was pulled over, the reason given was for texting and not wearing a seat belt.

When shown a video tape that these allegations in fact, did not occur, the arresting officer (yes— when you’re given a ticket or citation in lieu of arrest, this is sometimes called a “warrantless arrest” or an arrest without warrant ), decided to issue a clean North American Standard Level III Driver/Credential Inspection (which includes the seat belt), saying he had decided “I am going to let you go.”

The truck driver was perplexed. What if no video was available? What might have happened if the existence of the video was not made known?

And how many more times that day were similar citations issued to undeserving truck drivers? How many would fight them?

Lunch Money

One of the finest truck driving instructors I worked with was an old Teamster who at one time delivered beer to Chicago. Charlie had over forty years of truck driving experience and was a fountain of knowledge and knew all of the facts of life about truck driving.

Back in his day, when Charlie went through Chicago he had to fold a $10 bill (worth about $50 in today’s dollars) called “lunch money” and clip it to his driver’s license with a paper clip. Every time he was stopped by local authorities, he would get his license back and the “lunch money” would be gone.

Lesson’s Learned

The driver in the beginning of the blog learned a valuable lesson: As a truck driver one can be accused at any time of the most outrageous violations. Be prepared.

The driver immediately stopped at the next exit and removed all electronic devices from the dash: GPS, cell phone, electronic logging tablet, etc.

Event Recorders

A big selling point for “Video Event Recorders” that capture real-time video and sometimes other data in the course of an event, incident, or accident, is the video can be used to defend a driver against false claims. Lytx says in 80% of collisions, it’s not the truck driver’s fault. Swift has agreed to install Lytx DriveCam recorders on thousands of power units.

Verizon makes similar defense claims about their Networkfleet’s vehicle tracking diagnostics, as does Telogis.

Accusations Abound

Everyday fleets and their drivers are accused of all sorts of things ranging from stone damage to glass, to vehicle or property damage.

1. Take all reports seriously. In the case of stone damage, unless unsecured rocks were falling off of the back of the vehicle, there is not much relief warranted — especially in the instance of vehicles following too closely. Other the other hand, further investigation may reveal bad judgment and choices on part of the driver. Have a system in place to capture and respond to these types of events.

2. Take advantage of new technology. There are opportunities to deploy new accident avoidance systems to avoid trouble and accident recording devices to help defend against claims. Some insurance companies may reduce premiums for installing these devices.

3. Protect your reputation. Protecting your reputation has been called by some a critical job skill. There is endless business pressure to cut corners, “bend the rules,” and take shortcuts. Nobody is immune from this pressure. Good risk management teaches us to be aware of catastrophic risk — a risk that might have the potential to inflict serious damage. Breaking and bending the rules, and taking shortcuts can result in catastrophic outcomes, no matter how good the intentions.

Thank you for reading this.

Texting at 70 MPH: Dangerous Truckers

texting truckers

It’s no secret. Truckers are texting and talking on the cell phone while driving.

So are car drivers. The effect is mind-boggling: each year thousands of crashes are occurring, costing Billions of dollars in damages. It’s more than the budgets of a number of countries.

We all suffer greatly from this unnecessary indulgence. Costs are rising for insurance, comp, taxes to pay for the uninsured, emergency services (towing, ambulances, emergency room services, hospitalization, physical therapy and rehabilitation) police response, and legal and court fees to compensate victims for this wholesale negligence. .

Fatal Texting Crash

Somebody has to pay for this party.

Company owners like to question me why insurance rates are so high. Put the cell phone down and have your drivers do the same and reap the benefits of lower insurance premiums.

ABC News even captured one driver talking on two cell phones. Autonomous trucks are already here — you just didn’t know it.

There are studies showing how dangerous it is to not look at the road while driving, or dialing numbers, entering data or even merely conversing.

Drivers don’t believe the information, don’t believe it can happen to them, or sadly, in at least one case of an injured bicyclist, said they just don’t care.

Here is one driver who does not use his phone on the job . . .

“I see truck drivers doing it every day.”


A truck driver who gets in a serious crash while texting or talking on a cell phone:

  • would likely lose their commercial driver’s license
  • could be sentenced to prison
  • could be given thousands of dollars in fines
  • could face civil lawsuits.

During any period of probation, a convicted driver would have to surrender his CDL. The fines don’t go down for multiple-offenses. The company fines (up to $11,000) and higher insurance rates, if there is a crash, could be enough to put a smaller motor carrier out of business.

“If regulations governing pilots, captains and drivers aren’t enforced, they really are just words on paper.”  Superior Court Judge Craig E. Robison

Thanks for stopping over.

J Taratuta
John Taratuta is a trucking safety advocate and Risk Engineer. (989) 474-9599



Out of Service

“Out of Service.”

Nothing runs a chill up the spine of a DOT regulated motor carrier than the words “Out of Service.” But, unfortunately, DOT Out-of-Service orders do happen.

The usual reason a DOT Out-of-Service (OOS) order is directed against a motor carrier is for not cooperating in a timely manner in an audit or a request for information or some other action on part of the motor carrier.

In late December 2015, a medium sized carrier with over 300 trucks on the East Coast was given an out-of-service order. The reason for the order according to published reports, was that the motor carrier had received an “unsatisfactory rating” by the DOT in October 2015, and had not submitted a corrective safety plan or an administrative appeal before a 60 day response period.

Motor carriers also may receive a “conditional rating.” Says one DOT safety and compliance consultant . . .

“Conditional ratings continue to be very damaging. They are also difficult to get upgraded. Oh yes, I can do it, probably as well as anyone, but don’t expect it’s going to be fast, or cheap. The general waiting line once the petition is filed is 3 months. In other words, your petition is going to sit on a DOT officer’s desk for 3 months before he looks at it. Also, it takes a significant amount of my time to put these things together. Time is money. Therefore, if you think you’ll call me, I’ll write a letter, charge you $500, and boom! the rating is upgraded . . . no, oh, no.” Eric Arnold

Some Lessons Learned

If your company receives an adverse DOT safety rating (Conditional or Unsatisfactory), then time is of essence in getting the matter corrected to the satisfaction of the DOT. Waiting to the end of a deadline period may not stop the clock or the DOT from issuing an Out-of-Service order. Merely submitting a corrective safety plan (CSP) may not result in an automatic abeyance of the OOS order. The CSP, after all, needs to be approved — and things never move fast as you would like in any bureaucracy . . .

Key Points

• Always respond to DOT requests in a timely matter.

• The government’s “business day” ends at 5 P.M., not at midnight.

• Don’t wait until the last minute and drop something in the mail hoping that since it has been postmarked that you are good to go. As someone said, “hope is not a strategy.”

Thank you for reading this.

More . . .  What are some Driver Out-of-Service (OOS) Violations?