Manuel Castillo, a truck driver from Fresno, California had been driving a truck full of onions when he was stopped for a routine inspection in Alabama. He wasn’t speeding, and there had been no prior offense on his records, but he did receive a ticket; a ticket for $500 since he was a “non-English-speaking-driver.” This trucker had run into the federal safety rules that apply to interstate commercial drivers.
Federal law states that anyone with a commercial driver’s license must “speak English well enough” to talk with police. According to Bill Quade, a member of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the purpose of this law is so that the drivers can tell law enforcement officials what they are carrying in their trucks; in other words, for security purposes. Mr. Castillo does not plan on returning to Alabama to contest the ticket; instead he tells the Associated Press that this process “doesn’t seem fair… I wasn’t doing anything dangerous on the road”. Is that what it takes to get a ticket now; to do something dangerous on the road?
Often in truck accidents the lack of English skills can effect the investigation. Many collisions happen in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC) on Interstate I95. Even if no one is seriously hurt or killed in a truck wreck, the authorities need to be able to understand what happened.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 17% of the 3.4 million truck drivers are Hispanic. Stricter English rules for truck drivers could result in as many as 578,000 drivers’ licenses being revoked. Who knows what that will do to an already flailing economy. Also, what exactly does speaking “English well enough to converse with an officer” mean? Is it speaking well enough to tell what’s inside your truck and where you are headed, or well enough so that you can have an intellectual conversation about the state of Pluto being demoted as a planet? The lesson is this: Si no sabes inglés, necesitas aprenderlo. (If you don’t speak English, you’d better learn)
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