Truck Driver Rules and Regulations To Help You Avoid Fines

There are many truck driver rules and regulations that you’ll need to follow when you’re a trucker. We’ll lay them all out so you’ll know exactly what to do.


Jacob Lee
February 8, 2023
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Truck driver rules and regulations are pervasive. Both federal and state governments want to ensure truckers are qualified to transport freight safely. Fortunately, abiding by these requirements is easy to do. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) within the Department of Transportation (DOT) overseas truck driver rules and regulations that dictate:

  • Driving times
  • Driver qualifications
  • Driver registration
  • Record keeping
  • Truck inspection
  • Insurance

States also have unique requirements that truckers have to follow as well.

We’ll go over truck driver rules and regulations so you’ll know what to do before and after becoming a certified driver. 

Parked semi trucks at rest stop

Truck Driver Rules and Regulations On Driving Times

Trucking is a much more strenuous job than most people realize. Truckers require an adequate amount of rest to avoid truck accidents and deliver their freight safely. To ensure this happens, the FMCSA has strict rules on how many hours a trucker can be on the road. 

Passenger-Carrying Drivers

Passenger-carrying drivers are responsible for moving people over long distances. There are a few criteria that a driver has to meet to be considered a passenger motor carrier.

This includes:

  • Transporting people across state lines
  • Transporting people between the U.S. and a U.S. territory
  • From the U.S. through another country and then to another place in the U.S.
  • From the U.S. and another country 

If a driver meets this criterion, they will have to follow the applicable hours of service regulations outlined by the FMCSA. 

The FMCSA hours of service requirements for passenger-carrying drivers are:

  • 10-hour driving limit
  • 15-hour duty limit
  • 60 to 70-hour limit every 7 to 8 days
  • 8-hour sleeper berth requirement
  • 2-hour adverse driving conditions extension 

These regulations will ensure that passenger-carrying drivers will have enough energy and rest to perform their duties.

Property-Carrying Drivers

Truck drivers of all varieties are considered property-carrying drivers. Not only is there a break requirement for truckers, but some of the maximum duty hours are also less. 

FMCSA hour of service requirements for property-carrying drivers include:

  • 11-hour driving limit
  • 14-hour duty limit
  • 30-minute break
  • 60 to 70-hour duty limit every 7 to 8 days
  • 10-hour sleeper berth requirement
  • 2-hour adverse driving conditions extension

Property-carrying drivers must abide by stricter regulations because the freight they transport is large and heavy. Ensuring truckers have the rest they need to efficiently transport this kind of freight is imperative. 

If you need something to keep yourself occupied while on your break or on duty, then check out our article on hobbies for truck drivers.

A frustrated truck driver sitting behind the wheel

What Qualifications Must Truck Drivers Meet?

Anyone who wants to be a truck driver will have to abide by the requirements expected of them. The FMCSA requires that truckers have commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) and undergo drug and alcohol testing. 

Not following certain rules and regulations will cause you to lose your CDL.

Commercial Drivers License

Before a prospective truck driver can apply for their CDL, they must first meet some basic FMCSA requirements.

Potential truck drivers must:

  • Have a valid non-commercial driver’s license
  • One to two years of driving experience (this rule can vary by state)
  • Complete training from FMCSA-approved trainers (applies for prospective drivers that want to apply for Class A and Class B CDLs)
  • Be 18 years of age to transport freight within their state
  • Be at least 21 years of age to drive outside the state and transport hazardous goods
  • Provide proof of citizenship or lawful permanent residency in the form of:
    • A social security card
    • Birth certificate
    • A valid passport
    • A green card
  • Speak and read English sufficiently
  • Complete a DOT physical to obtain a DOT medical card
  • Pass all background checks

In addition to these requirements, some states might want potential drivers to take a CDL training course as extra preparation. Once meeting these requirements, aspiring truckers can begin the application process. 

According to the FMCSA, drivers can complete the application process by following these steps:

  • Drivers must obtain their state’s CDL manual
  • Drivers must determine what type of vehicle they want to obtain a license for
  • Obtain a Commercial Learners Permit (CLP)
  • Drivers must complete skill tests and in some cases a written test for the corresponding CDL class they want
  • Drivers seeking to obtain a Class A or Class B CDL will need to complete an entry-level driver training course
  • Complete the CDL test

States vary in their CDL testing procedures, but most are broken up into the following three sections.:

  • Vehicle inspections
  • Basic controls
  • Road test

Some states will give truck drivers who successfully pass the test their CDL license on the same day. Others will send drivers their CDL through the mail. 

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Drug and alcohol testing is another requirement that truck drivers will need to complete before and after becoming a trucker. Trucking companies and truckers can face costly fines if they don’t get tested when necessary. 

There are a few instances that a truck driver will be tested for drugs or alcohol:

  • Pre-employment
  • Randomly throughout the year after employment
  • After an accident 
  • If a driver is suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Drivers returning to duty
  • Follow-up testing

Commercial truck drivers are required to take extensive drug tests. Because there are so many kinds of substances that truckers could potentially abuse, drug tests search for multiple substances within the trucker’s system. Typically, truck drivers will be given the 5-panel drug test.  

It will search for the following:

  • THC
  • Opiates
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines

As for alcohol testing, truck drivers aren’t permitted to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) over 0.02 percent. DOT tests for alcohol by using the breath and saliva of truck drivers. The best way for truck drivers to pass their alcohol and drug tests is simply to stay clean. 

While not required, one essential item a truck driver should never be without is a truck driver emergency kit. Read our article on this important item so you can figure out what you need.

A semi truck traveling in a snow storm

How Does A Truck Driver Register With FMCSA?

Another responsibility that every new truck driver will have to complete is registration with the FMCSA. Fortunately, this process can be condensed into five simple steps. 

These steps are:

  1. Determining FMCSA registration requirements
    1. Obtain USDOT number
    2. Obtain Hazardous Materials Safety Permit Registration
    3. Obtain Operating Authority Number
  2. Completing the FMCSA application
  3. Determining registration requirements in a driver’s state
  4. Starting a New Entrant Safety Assurance Program
  5. Maintain/update USDOT number and operating authority information as needed

After completing these steps, truck drivers will have successfully registered with the FMCSA and can begin driving. Check out our article on the OTR trucker lifestyle to discover what life will be like once you start your first trucking job. 

Do Truck Drivers Need To Keep Records?

Truck drivers that work as owner-operators will need to keep their records. However, truck drivers that work for a trucking company won’t have to perform extensive record-keeping. Instead, truckers will report the information to the carrier they work for. Carriers keep records of all their drivers per FMCSA rules and regulations. 

The FMCSA requires motor carriers to have records of the following information:

  • Hours of service
  • Dispatch and trip records
  • Bills of lading (BOL) and other paperwork
  • Fleet management communication
  • Receipts of driver expenses
  • Payroll and settlement sheets
  • Driver performance and qualification
  • Drug and alcohol tests
  • Vehicle maintenance and inspections

While truckers working for a company need to report relevant information to their carrier, some information will need to stay on them during their journey. For example, drivers will need to keep a duty status log every 24 hours. BOLs are another document that truck drivers should have while transporting freight.

When Should Truckers Inspect Their Vehicles?

Truck inspection is another important part of truck driver rules and regulations. Inspection can vary by state, federal and company regulations. The FMCSA has a few different types of inspections that they want to be performed on commercial vehicles. 

These inspections include:

  • Driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR)
  • Pre-trip inspection
  • Periodic inspection
  • Equivalent to periodic inspection

DVIR inspections are the most frequently performed. Truck drivers must complete this inspection every day at the end of their shift. 

To complete the DVIR correctly, drivers will need to check for the following:

  • Truck and trailer brakes
  • Parking (hand) brake
  • Steering 
  • Lighting and reflectors
  • Tires
  • Rear-vision mirror
  • Wheels and rims
  • Horn
  • Coupling devices
  • Windshield wipers
  • Emergency equipment

Pre-trip inspection reports are performed by drivers before going on the road. The driver must simply determine that the vehicle is safe to operate. Drivers will need to look at the previous inspection report and review any concerns made by the previous trucker. 

The periodic inspection (also known as the annual inspection) has to be completed at least once a year. Compared to the pre-trip and DVIR, the periodic inspection is much more in-depth. It requires that all items within Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 306 Appendix A be examined.

These items include:

  • Brake system
  • Coupling Devices
  • Exhaust System
  • Fuel System
  • Lights
  • Safe Loading
  • Steering Mechanism
  • Suspension
  • Frame
  • Tires
  • Wheels and rims
  • Windshield glazing
  • Windshield wipers
  • Rear impact guard

State inspection requirements can vary. Some states will require drivers to inspect their vehicles after a certain amount of time on the road or after driving a certain amount of miles. Many trucking companies make their drivers inspect their trucks at the end of every day, per the DVIR regulation. This allows companies to identify and fix potential problems before they occur and abide by FMCSA truck driver rules and regulations. 

Check out our article on semi truck maintenance checklists for more assistance with what parts of your truck you should check. 

A flatbed semi traveling through the desert

Do Truck Drivers Need Insurance?

For-hire motor carriers will need the correct minimum levels of insurance for the freight they transport. A for-hire carrier can be a trucking company or an individual owner-operator. In addition to providing the correct amount of insurance, a truck driver will need to prove they’re insured as well. 

Minimum Insurance Protection

The first part about FMCSA insurance regulations that truck drivers should understand is the minimum amount of protection they will need to have. Based on the load they’re carrying and the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), truck drivers will need to provide a minimum level of insurance between $750,000 and $5,000,000

Companies can handle these insurance regulations instead of their truckers. Owner-operators, however, will have to follow these regulations on their own. 

Proof of Insurance

Simply having insurance isn’t satisfactory for the FMCSA. They also require truck drivers to prove that they have the minimum level of insurance on the freight they’re hauling. To do this, truck drivers will need one of three types of documents.

These documents include:

  • Form MCS-90
  • Form MCS-82
  • A document with written authorization from the FMCSA to self-insure. Only applicable if the truck driver has a satisfactory rating under Title 49 of the CFR, Part 385.

Truck drivers can update their insurance information with the FMCSA whenever they need to. Company truck drivers won’t have to worry about this responsibility as the carrier they work for will handle this for them. 

Improve Your Trucking Career By Driving With ABCO Today

At ABCO, we handle many FMCSA regulations so our drivers can focus more on driving. That’s not the only perk that you’ll be able to enjoy when you drive for us. Our drivers can expect competitive pay and great benefit options.

Lastly, we ensure that our truck drivers are granted a balanced schedule. This allows them to have time with their friends and family while also getting enough time on the road to make money.

If you’re ready to start working for a company that cares about you, fill out your application or call our team at (800) 980-2710 for more information. 

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