Wheel Chocks Required?
When it comes to wheel chocks, many people assume they’re required and use them as a matter of course, to improve safety at the dock (and that’s a good idea). In fact, the U.S. DOT does not require wheel chocks in most cases, but at least one state does.
Rhode Island’s rarely-cited chocking law has been on the books for years and has recently gained renewed attention, possibly due to the rapid increase in the number of delivery trucks that are subject to it.
At least two
The law says the following vehicles must carry at least two wheel chocks when operating in Rhode Island:
- Every bus that seats more than seven passengers;
- Every truck with a registered gross weight of 7,000 pounds or more; and
- Every tractor or trailer, or combination.
Fortunately for most readers, vehicles equipped with positive-action, spring-loaded air parking brakes are exempt. Many of the new non-air-braked delivery vehicles plying Rhode Island highways are not, however.
Use chocks when parked
Not only do chocks have to be carried, they must be placed under the rear wheels whenever the vehicle is “parked on a highway on a grade sufficient to cause the vehicle to move of its own momentum, and is left unattended by the operator.”
Violators face a fine of up to $85. Details may be found in the state’s vehicle inspection manual, available online at www.dmv.ri.gov.
FMCSA vs. OSHA for Chocking Laws
If you’re confused about who has jurisdiction when it comes to wheel chocks, you’re not alone. Multiple agencies have fought over the issue for years, including FMCSA and OSHA. Most states (besides Rhode Island) have no chocking laws for highway vehicles.
Under federal standards, FMCSA has authority over commercial vehicles operating in interstate commerce on roadways that are open to public travel. They require wheel chocks only for agricultural commodity trailers, heavy haulers, and pulpwood trailers (as defined in §393.5). All other vehicles are required to have brakes strong enough to hold the vehicle in place without chocks.
OSHA takes over, however, when a vehicle leaves the highway and parks at a loading dock. OSHA does not require that chocks be carried, but it does require that wheel chocks or sand shoes be used when dockboards are in place, as a way to protect forklift operators (see 29 CFR §1910.26).
It’s never a bad idea to use wheel chocks
Wheel chocks can serve as an added measure of safety — that’s why many shippers require their use. Motor carriers are free to set their own safety standards that go above and beyond DOT requirements, including requiring their drivers to use wheel chocks even when they are not required by regulation.
What about PHMSA?
The DOT’s hazmat agency does not require the use of wheel chocks. However, §177.834(e) does say you need to take “reasonable precautions” to prevent a vehicle from moving when hazardous materials are being loaded or unloaded. Wheel chocks can serve that purpose.
Key to remember: Non-air-braked vehicles in Rhode Island need to carry wheel chocks. Most other commercial vehicles do not, but chocks may be needed when dockboards are being used at a loading dock.
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