Traffic Lawyer discusses foreign language Drivers-Driving while Chinese
“Sir, I need your papers, log book, registration, and everything. EVERYTHING SIR!!,” a trooper demanded during a truck safety stop operation near I-95 in Cecil County, Maryland. The Chinese trucker had all his documents in order and a valid commercial driver‘s license. He spoke with state trooper with a heavy Chinese accent. He was admittedly nervous. So, is it true that you can’t operate a commercial vehicle if you can’t speak English? The answer is: Yes, it’s true. Under the law, the troopers were forced to make the driver park his truck and take him out of service.
Commercial Driver License Requirements
There is no CDL requirement that a commercial driver be required to speak English. A CDL test may be given in any language. Only a driver‘s safety knowledge and skills are evaluated, not their comprehension of the English language. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) does have English speaking requirements, which are listed at 49 CFR 391.11(b)(2).
§ 391.11 General qualifications of drivers.
• Must be at least 21 years old
• Must be able to read and speak English so as to read and obey traffic laws
• Must meet all medical requirements
• May only possess one CDL
• May not be disqualified
• Must have successfully completed a road test
Open to interpretation
There is no machine that a driver can breathe into which spits out a reading of how much English he/she knows, the sole person who judges the driver under the influence of Chinese [or insert your native language here] is the police. It seems a bit unfair and it is. To some, that’s just a part of doing business. Even the Department of Transportation (DOT)’s own pamphlet has a happy Hispanic guy posing in front of a truck, suggesting that this policy has a lot to do with the person’s national origin. So, it wouldn’t be surprising if a Chinese or Hispanic trucker is pulled over on I-95 just because of the way they look.
The department of transportation pamphlet outlines the kinds of things truckers should be able to say, in English, if they want to keep on driving:
Don’t be put out of service. If you have been ticketed for Driving While Chinese (or whatever ethnicity), call our law office. We may be able to defend your ticket and put you back in business. We know how important it is to keep your CDL record clean. No one can afford to have points or increased insurance premiums. We defend moving and non-moving trucking violations.
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