Wheels of Justice
Reporting convictions of traffic offenses
I received a call from the safety director of a major long-haul trucking company who wanted to know if the states had to report all traffic violations on a CDL driver’s MVR. He wanted to review it in the driver’s annual MVR review and wondered if there were some violations that were not reported on the MVR. Since this safety director worked for one of my ma-jor clients, I told him the whole story, and the whole story is, “it depends.” Like any good lawyer, I give my clients the whole truth about their situation and their options as they pertain to their legal ob-ligations and opportunities.
I started out by telling the safety dir-ector that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) established rules that determine the very issues he was concerned about. In fact, we discussed the state’s compliance with commercial driver’s licenses and their notification of traffic violations as set out in 49 CFR, Part 384, which was en-acted on July 31, 2002 and required to be fully implemented by 2006.
We discussed that the regulations apply to the state, but the courts sometimes act on their own. If they do not report the conviction to the state, then the state has no record of it and cannot send it to the home CDL state or to the federal CDL (CDLIS) computer to keep up with. Judges often have their own way of doing things, sometimes good and sometimes bad, and not all convictions may be reported or the citation may be dismissed or amended to a different charge. In fact, 20% of all my business comes from errors made by the courts or DMV in the way they process, or fail to process, traffic cases and convictions.
As I recall, my final statement to the safety director was that he could require his drivers to notify him within 72 hours of receiving a traffic ticket instead of within 30 days of the conviction. But I explained to him that if he did that, he was requiring his drivers to prove they are innocent instead of re-quiring the state to prove that the driver was guilty. This is precisely the opposite of the basic foundation of our American judicial system of innocent until proven guilty. I also told him that if he followed the 72-hour idea, then he was helping any plaintiff lawyer sue his company by supplying additional information that shows a driver re-ceiving a ticket, but not that the driver was found not guilty of the violation. He agreed and said he will stay with the requirement that his drivers report all convictions within 30 days.
Jim C. Klepper is president of Interstate Trucker Ltd., an organization that provides legal defense protection to commercial drivers. Jim is a lawyer who focuses on transportation law and the trucking industry in particular. He works to answer your legal questions about trucking, and he holds his Commercial Drivers License.