License and Registration, Please: Dealing with Tickets as a Professional Driver
There’s no worse feeling on the road than checking your side or rear-view mirror to see flashing lights coming up on your rig, especially if you knowingly were speeding or broke another traffic law.
Paying a fine for a ticket is one thing, but the implications it can have on driving records, employment, and insurance premiums is typically what concerns people the most.
As a commercial truck driver, you’re automatically held to a higher standard when it comes to following traffic laws. As highway safety continues to become a greater concern, the bar for what is considered being a safe driver is being raised.
The Impact of Citations
If you receive a citation, the impact it will have on your driving record and ‘standing’ with your fleet or ‘hireability’ really depends on how serious the incident was and what your overall driving record shows.
Receiving a speeding citation for going 5 mph over the speed limit isn’t the end of the world, especially if you don’t have other incidents on your driving record. It’s a nuisance to have a ding on the record, but in the grand scheme of things, the impact should be fairly minimal. As long as it doesn’t become a reoccurring event. A citation for going 15+ mph over the speed limit (reckless) driving, a DUI, distracted driving, or another major driving violation is a whole different story and is a sure way to have a license suspended and risk driving professionally again. Minor speeding citations – if it becomes a habit – can be enough for a fleet to think twice about keeping a driver on or hiring them. They might even lead to a temporary license suspension.
The FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS), which is used to help track a fleets’ safety performance, is one of the tools that determine CSA scores for fleets. The SMS assesses noncompliance by analyzing on-road performance data from inspectors, crash reports, and violations discovered during prior investigations. The SMS then uses the data to assess carriers in the seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) – unsafe driving, crash indicator, HOS compliance, vehicle maintenance, controlled substance/alcohol, hazardous materials compliance, and driver fitness.
SMS ‘Point’ System
Under SMS, drivers are assigned a severity weight, or points, anytime a violation occurs. For example, a speeding citation for going 6-10 mph over the speed limit is counted as four severity points for a driver. Once you cross the line of 10 mph, the points really begin to add up. A citation for speeding 11-14 mph over is seven. A driver caught going 15 mph, which is considered reckless driving, is 10 points, which is the max. This just covers speeding citations, and there are several other violations and situations drivers can receive severity points for. Some of them carry a significant amount of points for violations you might not think would. It’s in your, and your fleet’s best interest to know what is at risk with accumulating CSA severity points and to best avoid incidents that can significantly take a toll on your record and fleets’ safety score.
Not only can an individual driver’s actions affect a fleets’ safety score, but it can also impact other areas of business that are dependent on a good CSA score. Take weigh station bypass services for example. A fleets’ overall weigh station bypass rate at which drivers receive clearance to bypass weigh station locations is directly correlated to the fleets’ CSA score. For fleets subscribed to Drivewyze PreClear, drivers receive permission to bypass Drivewyze-enabled weigh stations anywhere from 50 to 98 percent of the time. A driver’s poor judgment on the road could negatively impact a fleets’ bypass rate and other drivers in the fleet since bypass opportunities are based on how ‘safe’ a fleet is.
Dealing with a Citation
If you’re pulled over and receive a ticket, be transparent with your fleet. Even if you plan to go to court to defend your case and try and have the citation dismissed, your fleet will likely know about it. It’s better to be upfront about it rather than act as nothing happened. If you are convicted for a traffic violation, it’s required you inform your fleet within 30 days anyway. Every state handles traffic violations in its own way, but they’re all recorded and count towards your driving record and company’s safety score. To see how a citation in the short term will affect you, it’s a good idea to check the CDL handbook for the state you received the citation in.
If you’ve received a citation in the past and are curious whether it’s still on your record, you can access your driving record by checking with the state or province’s motor vehicle department from which your license is issued. Moving violations typically remain on a driver’s record for three years. Fleets can also check their safety scores by visiting the FMCSA SMS website to see where they stand.
Dealing with traffic violations can be avoided. The best advice is to use cruise control. Most trucks these days are equipped with safety technologies to assist drivers on the road. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the driver to be aware of traffic laws and practice safe driving habits.