IV. The Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Manual

Below is the fourth chapter, “The Commercial Driver’s License (CDL),” of Understanding Motor Carrier Claims, Sixth Edition, a book from Fried Goldberg LLC, about the complexities of truck accident litigation. Plaintiff’s attorneys can request a complimentary copy. If you have any questions and would like to speak with an Atlanta, Georgia trucking accident attorney, contact us today. 

Previous Chapter: III. Driver Qualifications

Next Chapter: V. Alcohol/Controlled Substance Testing

Each state has its own Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Manual that contains similar model language on safe operations of a commercial vehicle. The CDL Manual establishes rules and guidelines that the professional truck driver must be knowledgeable of in order to obtain a CDL and comprises industry standards that must be followed by drivers and trucking companies. A failure to follow the provisions of the CDL Manual is evidence of negligence on the part of the driver and/or trucking company.

In Section 2.1, the CDL Manual gives detailed instructions on how to perform a pre-trip inspection on a tractor and trailer. A truck driver should know the parts to be examined in conducting a pre-trip inspection and the steps necessary to complete an appropriate inspection. In any improper repair and maintenance or mechanical failure case, this section from the CDL Manual should be fully explored with the driver and corporate representative of the trucking company.

A. Backing a Tractor Trailer

The CDL Manual has the following explanation and warnings concerning backing a tractor trailer.

B. Failure to Maintain a Proper Lookout

The CDL Manual establishes that a truck driver should be looking 12 to 15 seconds ahead of him to make sure there are no hazards in the roadway.

C. Following Too Closely

A truck driver must maintain 6 seconds of distance between himself and the vehicle in front of him at speeds of 55 mph.

D. Lane Changes

The CDL Manual describes the appropriate manner for a truck driver to make a lane change to make sure he identifies if there are any vehicles in his blind spot.

E. Crossing Traffic

A truck driver cannot attempt to cross lanes of traffic unless he is sure he can make it to the other side before traffic reaches his tractor-trailer.

Practice Pointer

Request copies of any records of disqualifications or out-of-service citations concerning the driver.

F. Stopping on the Side of the Roadway

It is important for the truck driver to use his hazard lights and place warning signals behind his vehicle whenever he is stopped on the side of the roadway.

G. Stopping Distances

Truck drivers should know that it takes 450 feet to stop at 55 mph and be able to calculate stopping distances at different speeds.

Practice Pointer

Make sure the driver is not hiding prior violations by maintaining more than one CDL.

H. Nighttime Driving

A truck driver must be able to stop within the distance he can see ahead of him.

With his low beams on, a truck driver can see 250 feet in front of him and can see 350 to 500 feet in front of him with high beams activated.

Given that it takes 450 feet to stop at 55 mph, a truck driver must have his high beams on to drive 55 mph at night in order to be able to stop within the visibility of his headlights. A truck driver is overdriving his headlights and violating industry standards if he is driving with his low beams on at 55 mph. The truck driver’s failure to drive with high beams activated at night is a common cause of nighttime accidents.

I. Driving in the Rain

Truck drivers should reduce their speed by one-third, i.e., from 55 mph to 35 mph, when the roads are wet.

J. Driving in Fog

The CDL Manual warns truck drivers to avoid driving in fog.

Practice Pointer

Use the CDL Manual to establish industry standards and to show that the truck driver intentionally broke the rules of safe operations thereby placing the public at risk.

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