MA commercial truckers take note: New requirement to carry US DOT number in September


delivery trucks and vans

If you are a Massachusetts commercial trucker engaged in intrastate commerce take note: Effective September 1, 2018, you must obtain and display a US DOT number for designated vehicles. The number must be obtained and filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and made visible on vehicle markings by that date, as per 540 CMR 2.22, the Commercial Marking section of the Registry of Motor Vehicles regulations.

According to State Police, “failure to obtain and display a USDOT number on your vehicles may result in a civil fine and/or placing your CMVs Out of Service until such time as your company obtains a USDOT Number.”

What MA commercial vehicles does this affect?

According to the MA Association of Insurance Agents, “The changes could affect customers that are written on a Massachusetts Auto Policy class 30 such as plumbers, carpenters, electrician, etc.”

The MA Department of Public Utilities Transportation Oversight says that affected vehicles include those that are:

  • Engaged in intrastate commerce having a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds; or
  • Used in the transportation of hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placarding; or
  • Designed to transport more than 15 passengers including the driver, used in intrastate commerce in Massachusetts.

Note: Intrastate operation means you conduct business solely within Massachusetts.

How do you obtain a US DOT number?

According to the MA State Police, to obtain a USDOT, go to the FMSCA website. Follow links to obtain an intrastate USDOT number. Your company will be issued a USDOT number that must be displayed on all CMVs that your company operates, including leased vehicles. There is no charge to obtain this number from the USDOT-FMCSA.

What are the new rules about DOT markings?

For guidance on displaying the DOT number on your vehicles, see:

 

Motorcycle Insurance Coverage and a Toolkit for Spring


Don’t let last week’s snow fool you – it’s just about time to take that motorcycle out of mothballs and get it on the road. But first, before you do anything else, check to be sure that you have motorcycle insurance to protect that investment.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) offers the lowdown on motorcycle insurance:

“Most states require motorcyclists to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance, to cover bodily injury and property damage costs caused to other people involved in an accident. In addition, uninsured/underinsured (UI/UIM) motorist coverage is recommended, or even required, in many states as part of a motorcyclist’s policy to cover expenses for damage were caused by another driver who either does not have insurance, or whose insurance is inadequate.
The mandatory minimum limits for these coverages in states where they are required for motorcyclists are generally similar to those required for automobiles.”

We think its a good idea to have some of the optional coverages, too: collision, first party medical coverage, emergency road service and coverage for customization and equipment.

III offers more details on motorcycle coverage here with tips on saving money such as a lay-up policy or those who suspend use in the winter and multibike discounts.

Motorcycle laws, safety tools & other resources

msfThe Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) is an internationally recognized developer of the comprehensive, research-based, Rider Education and Training System (RETS). Some insurers offer discounts for certified safety training so check to see if your insurer does. In addition to courses, MSF offers many free resources in their online library. One we like is the booklet You and Your Motorcycle Riding Tips – MSF says that many manufacturers include this booklet with their new motorcycles. They also have similar booklets for 3-wheeled motorcycles and scooters. Their Tire Guide looks pretty handy, too.

The American Motorcyclist Association has a good resource on motorcycle laws by state.
The guides cover information like eye protection, handlebar height, lane splitting and other information that bikers need to know.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a good guide on Motorcycle helmet laws by state. They note that, “Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, known as universal helmet laws. Laws requiring only some motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 28 states. There is no motorcycle helmet use law in three states (Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire).” IIHS also has a good Q&A about motorcycle safety and related topics

BikeBandit offers some excellent tips on how to prep your motorcycle for spring – he touches on everything from batteries to fluids.

Powerful video reminders: stay focused while driving this summer


A public service ad from Volkswagon uses a clever and persuasive way to drive home an important point.

A public service announcement from Honda illustrates things from a different perspective

This moving AT&T documentary shows just how quickly life can change

A California graphic designer takes photos of people texting while driving and uploads them to a site called TwitSpotting – he feeds these images to billboards in San Francisco

Gauging Your Distraction – Interactive game

From One Second to the Next: Powerful
Director Werner Herzog’s 35-minute documentary film takes a tough look at the aftermath of a split second error – texting while driving.

Distracted Driving Laws

What to do if you buy a lemon


lemon-car.jpg
“Lemon” is the generally accepted term for a defective car or a car with recurring mechanical problems that interfere with use. While many experts say that contemporary car manufacturing quality standards make it less likely that you would buy a new lemon, it’s certainly not out of the question. Edmunds has a good article on what to do if you think you’ve been stuck with a lemon.
Consumers are in luck today with the wealth or resources online. First, research can and should start in the buying process because preventing problems is always better than dealing with them after the fact. Buyers can research car reviews, dealerships, consumer complaints. For used cars, buyers should do a VINCheck and a vehicle history search and in the case of used cars. (See our post on avoiding flood damaged cars).
If problems do occur after purchase, your warranty and your dealer is the first place to turn. Document your attempts to have things fixed, including any out-of-pocket costs and time that are involved. If problems continue, it’s much easier to research things online today to see if your problem is common and to check with manufacturers. There are also a variety of ways to learn about vehicle recalls. But if all else fails, most states offer some type of consumer remedies under what is known as “lemon laws.”
State laws vary as to whether they cover both new and used cars, and most require that the car was purchased in that state and with a warranty. Cars that are purchased under an “as is” agreement would generally not be covered. Plus, states have various gating issues before any remedies would kick in: the buyer must have tried to resolve the issue in various ways before being eligible for consumer protection. According to Edmunds:

State laws vary in what constitutes a “persistent” problem or the “reasonable” number of repair attempts that would get you over the border into lemon territory. In Connecticut and New York, for example, four repair attempts is the state standard for “reasonable,” according to Connecticut attorney Sergei Lemberg, whose site, Lemon Justice, can help determine if you’ve got a lemon. But in Massachusetts, the law requires three attempts to repair the same problem in the first 15,000 miles — and one last attempt to get the manufacturer to address the defect after that.

Here are links to state lemon laws for New England states.
Connecticut Lemon Law Program
Maine Lemon Law and State Arbitration
Massachusetts Lemon laws
New Hampshire Lemon Laws
Rhode Island Lemon Law
Vermont’s Lemon Law

Cell Phones and Distracted Driving


Cell phones have become ingrained in our culture in an amazingly short time. As a nation, we’ve become accustomed to being available to make or take calls 24/7, no matter where we are. Although the convenience of a cell phone cannot be understated, it’s time to step back a little and be more careful with our phones. 99% of the time, there really isn’t any reason to use your phone while you’re driving. If the call is that important, pull over, stop and take it then.
Studies show that using a cell phone while driving is just about as dangerous as drinking and driving, as shown graphically in this video from 20/20. Yet states have been slow to ban their use outright, with only nine states currently banning the use of hand held phones while driving and 35 more banning texting while driving. That may be changing, as the National Transportation Safety Board has recently released a FAQ sheet on the dangers of distracted driving (PDF) and is calling for a national ban. The idea of a nationwide ban is gaining traction, due partly to a study recently released by California, where traffic deaths have declined by 22% in the two years since hand held cell phone use while driving was banned.
If the ban is passed in all fifty states, how will it affect car insurance rates? Since policies vary so much from state to state, it’s difficult to say. Currently, in New York, being ticketed for cell phone use results in three violation points on your driving record, and a fine up to $100, along with other mandatory fees and surcharges up to $85. The penalties are the same for texting or e-mail use while driving, except the maximum base fine goes up to $150.
Here’s a chart of current State Cell Phone Use & Texting While Driving Laws.