State & Federal Legal Responsibilities of Owning & Operating Commercial Vehicles & the Penalties for Mechanical Violations in Arizona

In Arizona, those who operate commercial motor vehicles are expected to abide by federal and state laws. Failure to comply with the provisions set forth by either body of laws can result in penalties, including significant fines. In addition, under certain circumstances, there is the possibility of criminal charges. This page will give a brief overview of some of the things that commercial motor vehicle drivers and carriers should be aware of.

Enforcement In Arizona

The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) is in charge of enforcing the “rules and regulations governing the safe operations of motor carriers, shippers and vehicles transporting hazardous materials.” Troopers are assigned to various Commercial Vehicle Enforcement districts in the state and are tasked with promoting “highway safety through auditing, education, inspection, and enforcement operations as required by state law, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and the Federal Hazardous Material Regulations.”

Thus, one of the tasks that DPS troopers perform is inspections. While conducting more than 42,000 inspections of commercial motor vehicles in 2016, troopers found numerous motor carrier violations. This resulted in 5,291 drivers being placed out of service and 4,887 vehicles being placed out of service.

Mechanical Violations

The main federal regulations that commercial motor vehicles must abide by are listed under 49 CFR 300-399, and the main state regulations are listed under A.R.S. Chapter 14, 28-5201 through 28-5245. While the majority of drivers and motor carriers work hard to follow all of these regulations, violations still occur.

There are many things that can result in a motor carrier violation. One way that a motor carrier or a driver could be cited for a violation is if there is a mechanical issue with the vehicle. Vehicles are supposed to be kept in good working order as a mechanical failure could result in the commercial motor vehicle causing an accident.

Duty to Inspect, Repair, Maintain

According to 49 CFR § 396.3, “[e]very motor carrier and intermodal equipment provider must systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained, all motor vehicles and intermodal equipment subject to its control.” This includes making sure that “parts and accessories” are in “safe and proper operating conditions at all times.” The parts that must be maintained include, but are not limited to:

  • Steering wheel system
  • Suspension system
  • Lamps
  • Reflective Devices
  • Electrical Wiring
  • Brakes including parking brakes, emergency brakes, front line brakes
  • Glazing
  • Window Construction
  • Fuel Systems
  • Coupling Devices
  • Towing Methods
  • Tires and Wheels
  • Heaters
  • Windshield systems include: wiping, washing, defrosting, defogging
  • Rear-View Mirrors
  • Horn
  • Speedometer
  • Exhaust Systems
  • Rear Impact Guards
  • Seat Belts
  • Lubrication.

As this list shows, there are many things that drivers and motor carriers must inspect regularly in order to make sure that the vehicle meets the applicable standards as laid out in 49 CFR § 393. In addition, certain types of commercial motor vehicles, like buses, must have certain parts inspected every 90 days. These parts include the “pushout windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights.”

Under 49 CFR § 396.3, “[m]otor carriers, except for a private motor carrier of passengers (nonbusiness), must maintain, or cause to be maintained, records for each motor vehicle they control for 30 consecutive days. Intermodal equipment providers must maintain or cause to be maintained, records for each unit of intermodal equipment they tender or intend to tender to a motor carrier.” The records that must be maintained include a record of the inspections, repairs, and maintenance the vehicle goes through.

Drivers are also required to prepare a report at the end of each day on the vehicle driven that covers a number of parts and accessories including:

  • Service brakes including trailer brake connections
  • Parking brake
  • Steering mechanism
  • Lighting devices and reflectors
  • Tires
  • Horn
  • Windshield wipers
  • Rear vision mirrors
  • Coupling devices
  • Wheels and rims
  • Emergency equipment.

Drivers who are transporting intermodal equipment must also do reports of that equipment.

Arizona law also requires that “a manufacturer, shipper and motor carrier shall maintain and keep within this state books, records, and other data as required by the department. The manufacturer, shipper, or motor carrier shall not destroy the books, records, and other data for a period of three years.” A.R.S. § 28-5231.

Penalties For Violations

In Arizona, the penalties for violating one of the commercial motor vehicle regulations can be either a civil penalty or a criminal penalty. This section gives a brief overview of the law pertaining to each type of penalty.

Civil Penalty

According to A.R.S. § 28-5245, “[n]otwithstanding section 28-5240, an equipment violation of this chapter or any rule adopted pursuant to this chapter is a civil traffic violation unless the violation requires the issuance of an out-of-service order pursuant to section 28-5241.” If an out-of-service order is issued and a driver operates or a motor carrier violates this order, this can also be a civil traffic violation. A.R.S. § 28-5241. In addition, a civil penalty can be imposed on “a driver who violates or fails to comply with an out-of-service order.” This penalty is about $2,500 for a first violation or failure and $5,000 for each subsequent offense. Motor carriers can also incur a civil penalty, and this can range from $2,750 up to $25,000. Those who violate the out-of-service order can also lose their commercial driver's license for a period of time. A.R.S. § 28-3312.

Under A.R.S. § 28-5232, if “a manufacturer, shipper, or motor carrier or the continued operation of a motor vehicle by a driver constitutes a danger to the public safety” then the driver or vehicle may be suspended. There is a process by which one who is subject to a suspension order can contest the continuation of the suspension as well as a civil penalty. The penalties for this violation include a fine which increases with each subsequent violation. The violations are also greater if there were hazardous materials involved. A.R.S. § 28-5238.

Criminal Penalties

In addition to the civil penalties that may be imposed, under A.R.S. § 28-5240, “a motor carrier, shipper or manufacturer who operates or causes to be operated a commercial motor vehicle in violation of this chapter or who knowingly violates or knowingly fails to comply with any provision of this chapter or with any rule adopted pursuant to this chapter is guilty of:

  • A Class 2 misdemeanor for a first offense
  • A Class 1 misdemeanor for a second offense
  • A Class 6 felony for any subsequent offense.

Being convicted of a criminal offense can result in fines and time behind bars.

Contact a Commercial Motor Vehicle Attorney

If you have been charged with a violation of the regulatory code, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp today.

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