20-381. Specific powers and duties of Department of Public Safety applicable to motor carriers; agricultural exemption.

(a) The Department of Public Safety has the following powers and duties concerning motor carriers:

(1) To prescribe qualifications and maximum hours of service of drivers and their helpers.

(1a) To set safety standards for vehicles of motor carriers engaged in foreign, interstate, or intrastate commerce over the highways of this State and for the safe operation of these vehicles. The Department of Public Safety may stop, enter upon, and perform inspections of motor carriers' vehicles in operation to determine compliance with these standards and may conduct any investigations and tests it finds necessary to promote the safety of equipment and the safe operation on the highway of these vehicles.

(1b) To enforce this Article, rules adopted under this Article, and the federal safety and hazardous materials regulations.

(2) To enter the premises of a motor carrier to inspect a motor vehicle or any equipment used by the motor carrier in transporting passengers or property.

(2a) To prohibit the use by a motor carrier of any motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment the Department of Public Safety finds, by reason of its mechanical condition or loading, would be likely to cause a crash or breakdown in the transportation of passengers or property on a highway. If an agent of the Department of Public Safety finds a motor vehicle of a motor carrier in actual use upon the highways in the transportation of passengers or property that, by reason of its mechanical condition or loading, would be likely to cause a crash or breakdown, the agent shall declare the vehicle "Out of Service." The agent shall require the operator thereof to discontinue its use and to substitute therefor a safe vehicle, parts or equipment at the earliest possible time and place, having regard for both the convenience and the safety of the passengers or property. When an inspector or agent stops a motor vehicle on the highway, under authority of this section, and the motor vehicle is declared "Out of Service," no motor carrier operator shall require, or permit, any person to operate, nor shall any person operate, any motor vehicle equipment declared "Out of Service" until all repairs required by the "Out of Service" notice have been satisfactorily completed. Such agents or inspectors shall also have the right to stop any motor vehicle which is being used upon the public highways for the transportation of passengers or property by a motor carrier subject to the provisions of this Article and to eject therefrom any driver or operator who shall be operating or be in charge of such motor vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages or impairing substances. It shall be the duty of all inspectors and agents of the Department of Public Safety to make a written report, upon a form prescribed by the Department of Public Safety, of inspections of all motor equipment and a copy of each such written report, disclosing defects in such equipment, shall be served promptly upon the motor carrier operating the same, either in person by the inspector or agent or by mail. Such agents and inspectors shall also make and serve a similar written report in cases where a motor vehicle is operated in violation of this Chapter or, if the motor vehicle is subject to regulation by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, of Chapter 62 of the General Statutes.

(3) To relieve the highways of all undue burdens and safeguard traffic thereon by adopting and enforcing rules and orders designed and calculated to minimize the dangers attending transportation on the highways of all hazardous materials and other commodities.

(4) To determine the safety fitness of intrastate motor carriers, to assign safety ratings to intrastate motor carriers as defined in 49 C.F.R. 385.3, to direct intrastate motor carriers to take remedial action when required, to prohibit the operation of intrastate motor carriers rated unsatisfactory, to determine whether the continued operations of intrastate motor carriers pose an "imminent hazard" as defined in 49 C.F.R. 386.72(b)(1), and to prohibit the operation of an intrastate motor carrier found to be an "imminent hazard" as defined in 49 C.F.R. 386.72(b)(1).

(5) To prohibit the intrastate operation of a motor carrier subject to an order issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to cease all operations based on a finding that the continued operations of the motor carrier pose an "imminent hazard" as defined in 49 C.F.R. 386.72(b)(1).

(b) The definitions set out in 49 Code of Federal Regulations 171.8 apply to this subsection. The transportation of an agricultural product, other than a Class 2 material, over local roads between fields of the same farm by a farmer operating as an intrastate private motor carrier is exempt from the requirements of Parts 171 through 180 of 49 CFR as provided in 49 CFR 173.5(a). The transportation of an agricultural product to or from a farm within 150 miles of the farm by a farmer operating as an intrastate private motor carrier is exempt from the requirements of Subparts G and H of Part 172 of 49 CFR as provided in 49 CFR 173.5(b).

(c) For purposes of 49 C.F.R. 395.1(k) and any other federal law or regulation relating to hours-of-service rules for drivers engaged in the transportation of agricultural commodities and farm supplies for agricultural purposes, the terms "planting and harvesting season" and "planting and harvesting period" refer to the period from January 1 through December 31 of each year. (1985, c. 454, s. 1; 1995 (Reg. Sess., 1996), c. 756, s. 24; 1997-456, ss. 37, 38; 1998-149, s. 12; 1998-165, s. 1; 1999-452, s. 22; 2002-152, ss. 4, 5; 2002-159, s. 31.5(b); 2002-190, s. 2; 2009-376, s. 9; 2011-145, s. 19.1(g); 2014-103, s. 5.)