CVSA Removes “English Requirements” (391.11(b)(2)) in Updated Out-of Service Criteria

FMCSA inspector complete a Level I inspection on a Mexican truck subsequent to entering the United States.
FMCSA inspector complete a Level I inspection on a Mexican truck subsequent to entering the United States.

Roadside inspectors no longer will place Mexican or Canadian truckers operating in the United States “Out-of-Service”  if they are unable to communicate in English, according to new Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance “tolerance guidelines”.

CVSA said the procedures will go into effect April 1.

The changes were approved by CVSA’s board and the majority of the membership, said Stephen Keppler, executive director of CVSA.

The language requirement was “hotly debated” by those opposed Mexican trucks in the US, MEXICO TRUCKER ONLINE learned from a trusted source who attended the meeting in Jacksonville Florida.

Keppler said the English requirement was removed this year because lacking command of a language does not create an “emminent hazard” or place a driver in “imminent danger of a crash”, as opponents suggest.

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that currently, violations of 391.11.(b)(2) will still be noted on the CVSA inspection report and will count as points against the drivers PSP score.

However, in their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), FMCSA filed in the Federal Register on 01/26/2016, they indicated this would be changing. A 60 day comment which will close on May 23, 2016.

FMCSA said there is no conflict between the CVSA out-of-service criteria and federal safety regulations related to English proficiency of drivers.

On January 21, 2016, as part of its upgrade of CSA standards, violation of 391.11.(b2(2) will no longer be noted on roadside inspection reports nor impact a carriers CSA scores nor the drivers PSP scores.

Reviewing the CSA scores of various Mexican carriers over the years, one thing is blatantly obvious. Those that have questionable CSA scores, the cause is alleged repeated violations of  391.11.(b2(2). Depending on fleet size, one or two violations are enough to put a carriers into the interdiction mode.

391.11.(b2(2) simply states:

Can read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records

As I’ve preached over the years, “sufficiently” is the key word. Who is to judge who can or cannot speak the language “sufficiently”. And who is to judge that while the person might not speak the language “sufficiently’ well enough to satisfy the inspector, what is to say he cannot comprehend what he is hearing or reading.

Interestingly enough, if you look at the CSA scores of Canadian carriers, especially those based out of Quebec, where French is the official language, you will see few violations of this regulations lodged against the Canadians.

It took FMCSA and CVSA long enough but finally our cousins south of the border will have more level playing field to compete on.

That’s not to say those who drive in this country shouldn’t try to learn and speak the language, if nothing more than self-betterment, but it should not be held against them if they don’t.