Understanding Trucking Regulations And How They Affect Accident Claims

Commercial semi-trucks are massive and powerful vehicles, weighing approximately 26,000 pounds. A collision involving a commercial vehicle has the capability to produce devastating impacts in terms of both property damage and personal injury. For these reasons, safety is one of the most prevalent concerns across the trucking industry. Responsible truckers and trucking companies take extraordinary measures to ensure that their drivers and the general public are as protected from a catastrophic collision as possible.

However, many truck accidents still occur on a daily basis across the United States. To make matters worse, most of these accidents are caused by human error and could have been avoided. When we take a deeper dive into the cause of truck crashes, we often discover that a violation of safety standards was a contributing factor to the accident. In order to understand how a crash occurs and how it relates to the legal rights of crash victims, it is important to understand the various rules and regulations that govern the trucking industry.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

On January 1, 2000, Congress established and funded the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, now known as the FMCSA. The agency was created under the United States Department of Transportation and currently has 1,000 employees. The explicit goal of the organization is to make the roadways safer for both the public and those in the commercial vehicle industry.

As an organization, the FMCSA is tasked with developing rules and regulations designed to lessen the risks of trucking accidents and to help prevent some of the most common causes of these collisions. Over the years, the FMCSA has authored a number of rules. The FMCSA rules are now largely codified into federal law and apply to most commercial vehicles that cross state lines. Below we will take a look at a few of the FMCSA regulations and how they affect crash victims.

Hours of Service Regulations  Understanding Trucking Regulations And How They Affect Accident Claims

Truck driver fatigue is a major cause of commercial vehicle collisions across the United States. Research suggests that 30-40% of all truck crashes occur due to truck driver fatigue. With this in mind, the FMCSA, in 2011, enacted rules limiting the number of hours that truckers can drive as follows:

  • A trucker carrying passengers has a maximum daily limit of 10 hours. After reaching this limit, the driver must take eight consecutive hours off before resuming.
  • Truckers carrying property or passengers cannot drive more than 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days.
  • A trucker carrying property may drive up to 11 hours in a day but only after taking ten consecutive hours off duty.

Limiting the driving hours of truckers can be crucial to preventing the main cause of truck crashes in the United States. Drivers who are distracted or drowsy are less likely to give their full attention to the road.

In order to ensure compliance with the FCMSA’s hours of service regulation, truckers are required to keep log books showing the hours that they worked. When a truck crash occurs, the log books become important evidence to discover whether the trucker and the trucking company were in compliance with the hours of service regulation at the time of the crash.

Federal Truck Maintenance Regulations

In addition to prescribing restrictions on driving hours, the FMCSA has also tackled another common cause of truck crashes: poor maintenance. A truck driver can be extremely conscientious and focused on safety at all times, but it does no good if their truck suffers a mechanical defect or breakdown that leads to a crash.

Poor truck maintenance and unsafe or defective vehicle parts are common causes of many truck accidents. The FMCSA requires that every commercial truck under its authority undergo a comprehensive annual inspection. The inspection must test all major components of the truck. This includes its wheels and axles, engine, transmission, brakes, tires, lights, and more. Records of this inspection must be maintained and available to prove compliance. Certain systems, such as pushout windows and emergency doors, must be inspected more often, at least every 90 days.

Outside of the annual inspection, truck drivers must inspect their vehicles daily and note any defects or deficiencies in the truck that are likely to affect its safe operation. The inspection must be done in writing and certified by the trucking company. Copies of daily inspections must be maintained by the motor carrier for up to 36 months.

When a truck accident happens, it is sometimes because of failure to follow proper maintenance and inspection procedures. At Burg Simpson, our United States truck accident attorneys will always investigate the cause of each crash. We look to see if the trucking company could have prevented the crash by following the FCMSA’s maintenance and inspection standards.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

It goes without saying that impaired driving and operating a commercial vehicle do not mix. An impaired truck driver poses an imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm to everyone on the road.

In recognizing this immediate danger, the FMCSA requires employers to conduct routine drug and alcohol testing on truckers in the following circumstances:

  • Immediately prior to employment as a commercial truck driver
  • Following a crash involving death or bodily injury
  • When there is reasonable suspicion that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance
  • When a driver returns to duty following a drug or alcohol rule violation
  • Randomly throughout the year

Failure to ensure appropriate drug and alcohol monitoring of drivers can lead to disastrous consequences. A trucking company that violates these safety standards places itself at great risk of being held accountable for its actions if a crash occurs.

United States Truck Accident Attorneys

If you or a loved one have been the victim of a commercial vehicle accident in the United States, you should seek legal help as soon as possible. In many cases, the cause of the crash lies in the violation of one or more regulations that were supposed to keep you safe.

At Burg Simpson, we investigate every avenue to hold truck drivers and motor vehicle carriers responsible when they have acted carelessly. Our national truck accident attorneys are here to assist you at any time.

We offer a free consultation for all potential clients. To schedule a time to discuss your case, please reach out to us using our online intake form or give us a call at (866) 695-2095.

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