What You Need to Know About Legal Requirements for Truck Drivers

The job of a truck driver is rewarding but can be pretty challenging. Drivers need to meet the legal requirements for the industry to be able to operate a vehicle for commercial purposes. While this might seem easy, remember that many won't pass. With the current driver shortage and high demand, the truck driving job is better than ever. You can learn more about how much do truck drivers make and understand that.
This article explains the legal requirements for becoming a truck driver. Ensure to go through them all to secure a job in this industry.


Getting a proper license is a must for truck drivers. They should obtain a CDL or commercial driving license to operate a truck. They should pass an exam on driving laws and regulations for commercial vehicles. Additional tests might be required depending on your local laws.

The licensing requirements can vary across states, so you must check the specific laws for your area.

Driver qualification

There are specific qualifications an individual should meet to become a truck driver. A valid driving license for the state where you plan to operate is a must. Also, you should be physically capable of operating a large vehicle and have good vision and hearing. Nevertheless, drivers with physical disabilities are also allowed to drive trucks.

All truck drivers are required to undergo drug testing with the employer. Candidates with positive results might not be listed for further consideration since this can impact safety.

Hours of service

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulates truck drivers' hours of service, including the number of working hours and working days per week and mandatory rest during work. The regulations are meant to enhance safety and prevent accidents that can result from fatigue and lack of rest.
Good driving habits are also essential. Truck drivers should be cautious on the road. Truck drivers have limited visibility due to the size of their vehicles, requiring them to be alert and aware of the situation on the road.


The commercial vehicle that you operate is also regulated by law. Truck drivers are responsible for pre-trip inspection, including checking the lights, brakes, tires, and other components before starting the journey. Any minor issues should be spotted and fixed so they won't go into more significant problems that compromise safety. A regular maintenance regime is also essential.

Local laws

Drivers operate across different states and countries, so they must know their laws. Despite knowing about the hours of service, drivers should be aware of the weight and hazardous material restrictions.

Truck driver rights

This job includes rights covering different matters, such as being forced to operate unsafe routes or employers not respecting service hours. Pressuring the driver to act against the laws and regulations violates his rights so he can file a complaint against the carrier.
If an employer requires the driver to violate the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, this brings legal consequences. The truck driver can be punished for not working according to the laws. However, this also has implications for trucking companies. Even if the carrier forces the driver to disregard the law, the driver will still be held accountable if they decide to proceed and not report the behavior. This is referred to as coercion.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has special regulations for drivers who are coerced by their employers. The Prohibiting Coercion of Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers rule was established in 2016, providing guidelines for truck drivers who are forced to break the law.
If drivers are forced to ignore the hours of service, testing rules, or CDL regulations, they should follow the directed protocols.

According to the FMCSA, coercion happens when the company asks the driver to violate the rules. Also it includes situations where the company threatens the driver with their position or work opportunities if they don't accept. The truck driver should inform the party that their requests violate the law, which could result in unsafe driving.
The driver should file a complaint within 90 days, including proof and documentation.

Trucking labor laws

These laws are related to overtime work and wages. The pay should be according to the federal and state minimum wage standards, regardless of whether it is based on per mile or a piece rate.

The law for overtime wages isn't that clear. The Federal Motor Carrier Exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states an exemption for most drivers.
There are strict guidelines regarding working hours. Truck drivers can work no longer than 14 hours a day, with 11 hours only for active duties. Companies mustn't force drivers into disregarding the law, as this is considered a law violation.

Time off

Long-haul drivers are away from home for weeks. There are certain things drivers should keep in mind when requesting time off.
First you should check the terms and conditions in your contract to find out if the employer is violating the requirements. Also, keep track of all the approved time off. You can email your employer the requested time off and keep it for the record.

It is important to note that the companies won't always follow the laws, hoping truck drivers don't know their rights. In such cases, you should contact a labor lawyer.

Truck driver: Employee vs independent contractor

A truck driver isn't an individual contractor, and referring to them as such is illegal. However, owner-operators are independent contractors since they set their work and working hours. Are you an employee or an independent contractor? This depends on the ownership of the vehicle that you're operating. If the vehicle belongs to the company, then you are an employee. An independent contractor is someone who owns and maintains their own trucks.
Also, the operating authority determines your status. Every carrier and independent contractor should have operating authority. If it belongs to the carrier, then you are an employee. 

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Posted - 05/24/2024