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Legal Issues Pertaining to Sweeping

Legal Issues Pertaining to Sweeping

DOT Regulation Guidelines for Sweepers

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross

From time to time, we receive calls and email from contractors who have questions about their legal requirements under federal Department of Transportation (DOT) and/or their local state's rules regarding the operation of his sweeper fleet. As a result, we decided an update on the regulations would be in order. Here's an overview of what you need to know.
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If you are operating across state lines, i.e., doing interstate commerce, there are two sets of rules that apply. One set kicks in at 10,001 lb. GVWR, and the second when a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) is required at 26,001 lb. GVWR. In between is the area where most parking area sweepers reside.

If you're not crossing state lines with a sweeper, the Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations do not apply until the vehicle weight reaches 26,000 lb. GVWR. However, that's really a moot point in most instances, since virtually all states have adopted the federal code exactly as written, or with only a few modifications. The most notable possible exception is typically the weight at which the DOT regulations are required to be followed. That's why, in assessing all of the following information, it's imperative that you check with your appropriate agency to determine the rules for your particular state. To find out this information, start by calling your state patrol or state highway administration. If your state doesn't require sweepers to be licensed, you'll want to tell them that fact when you inquire, too, since that may change the rules you fall under.

For vehicles over 26,000 lb., federal statutes are imposed, and all operators must have a CDL. Then, they are subject to the federal alcohol and controlled substances testing requirements found in Part 382 of the regulations. These are designed to get drunk and drugged drivers off the highways.

There are a number of types of testing required:

  • pre-employment controlled substances testing for all CDL drivers;
  • random controlled substances testing of 50% of CDL drivers annually;
  • random alcohol testing of 10% of CDL drivers annually;
  • post-accident alcohol and controlled substances testing (following all fatal accidents, plus all nonfatal accidents in which someone is injured or a vehicle is towed from the scene and the driver receives a ticket for a moving violation);
  • reasonable suspicion testing (when a properly trained company supervisor observes signs of alcohol or controlled substances use;
  • if a driver found to test positive for alcohol or controlled substances use is to be allowed to drive again, he/she must undergo return-to-duty testing and follow-up testing.

There are also requirements for driver education about this testing and about the effects of alcohol and controlled substances use, for supervisor training, and for proper evaluation, treatment and ongoing monitoring of drivers who test positive. In short, if you are required to have operators with CDL licenses, be sure you understand the regulations in detail.

Following are the general federal DOT guidelines for commercial vehicles over 10,001 lb., but under 26,001 lb., such that no CDL is required for operation. Even though a CDL is not required, in most states these rules must be followed if you employ operators for your parking area sweepers.

Throughout are listed the numerical spots in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations where the information may be found. These regulations are online at www.fmcsa.dot.gov. At the end of this article, an alternative contact for getting the written regulations is also provided.

In the past, a written test was required for drivers of all commercial vehicles. However, with the introduction of the CDL there is no longer a written test requirement for drivers of commercial vehicles below 26,000 lb..

However, prior to hiring an operator you must have them fill out an employment application and there are certain questions that must be included on it (391.21). In addition, a driving ability road test must be given by a company employee prior to hiring, and the results of this must be kept in the employee's file. (391.31) If the driver has a CDL, this requirement may be satisfied by keeping a copy of the CDL on file instead of doing a road test. (391.33)

Other items needed prior to employment include several investigations that must be performed. One is that you need to get a copy of the prospective employee's driving record for at least three years back, and these must cover however many states in which he or she has had a drivers license. The same type of investigation must be initiated with any employers the person has worked for in the previous three years. (391.23)

On a yearly basis, you must also obtain from your operators:

  • A list of all moving violations they've had in the previous year (in any vehicle they were operating). They must certify to you, in writing, that the information they provide is true. (391.25)
  • On a yearly basis, the employer must also obtain an official report on the driver's record from the company's state motor vehicle department. (391.27)

The items should be done in the order shown, and here's why: When a ticket is received in another state (while the operator was on vacation, for example), the information may or may not end up in your state motor vehicle department's database. Therefore, you may find that the driver will list violations that aren't provided in the state report.

After receiving both of these documents, use them to perform an annual written review of driver's record. (391.25) Every other year, a medical exam performed by a physician is required (391.41), along with a certificate of current health (391.43), and this information needs to be included in your review analysis, too.

A daily written vehicle inspection covering the basic operational and safety features of the vehicle must be performed by the operator at the end of each shift. Keep in mind this is for the chassis, not the sweeper unit. Then, if the inspection uncovers problems with the vehicle, the company must "repair any defect or deficiency listed on the driver vehicle inspection report which would be likely to affect the safety of operation of the vehicle." (396.11)

In addition, an annual inspection of each vehicle must be performed (396.17). This may be done by the owner of the vehicle, i.e., someone from your company. However, it may also be done by "a commercial garage, fleet leasing company, truck stop, or other similar commercial business perform the inspection as its agent, provided that business operates and maintains facilities appropriate for commercial vehicle inspections and it employs qualified inspectors, as required by section 396.19."

A log book (officially called a "record of duty status") must be kept (395.8). However, there is an exemption for a vehicle operated within a 100-mile air radius of your office, provided servicing your accounts doesn't require crossing state lines and your drivers don't stay on the job for more than 12 hours at a time (or operate the vehicle more than 10 hours at a time) without an 8-hour break in between, and provided that you keep a time card to document the hours worked. (395.1) Anyone who crosses state lines with a commercial vehicle over 10,001 lb. GVWR is considered to be operating in interstate commerce, and so must keep a log book.

They must also obtain an official DOT number that must be put onto both sides of the truck (390.21). It used to take weeks to get one of these numbers, however a recent improvement provided by the Internet is that the numbers may now be obtained immediately on the DOT website (www.fmcsa.dot.gov). Just enter 'DOT number' in the search menu at the top of the site, and you'll be taken to the web address where the number may be obtained interactively while you're online.

To find out more about any of the above information, go to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website and click on the top link, entitled 'Regulatory Guidance - FMCSRs'. Then, navigate to the number listed in parentheses to learn more about each of the topics discussed above.

Although seeing the information online is helpful, having a hard copy of the regulation information can prove even more valuable. The entire document is available from the DOT at a price of $60, however there's an even better way to get a hard copy of the information you need. In the tradition of American entrepreneurship, a number of companies have stepped forward to produce a compilation of the pertinent regulations. The version put out by a firm called J.J. Keller appears to be excellent. Their toll-free number is 1- 800-327-6868 (7am to 5pm CST), or you may order their publications online at the company's website, www.jjkeller.com.

For about $15 you can get their Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Handbook (Keller's item #17-H), which includes the information you need to be in DOT compliance when you have trucks and drivers. The 8.5 x 11-inch handbook includes the answers to questions most frequently asked to the DOT. The company also offers a condensed 'glovebox or shirt pocket guide' for drivers' reference that runs about $4 (Keller's item #7ORSA). The latter may be purchased either from them or is available at any truck stop. In addition, the company produces a variety of inspection forms, as well as training materials for topics that include drug and alcohol testing guidelines and much more. I found it quite worthwhile to take an online look at what they offered.

If you have questions about topics to do with vehicle safety, and your requirements under the law, it's much better to find out where you're lacking prior to getting inspected by a representative from a state or federal agency. Do it now, before you have an injury accident and the stakes in the matter get much higher.


You may reach Ranger Kidwell-Ross, author of this article and editor of World Sweeper magazine and WorldSweeper.com, via email sent to: editor@worldsweeper.com.

This article is reprinted from American Sweeper magazine, Volume 9 Number 2, 2004.

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