Overview of Commercial Trucking Laws
Driving cross country or in-town is both lucrative and risky business. For interstate transportation alone, there are 15.5 million trucks in the United States, and truckers drive roughly 140 billion miles per year. Crisscrossing the contiguous U.S., these staples of the American roadway can cause fatal or catastrophic accidents. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), trucks are involved in nearly half a million accidents each year.
The Purpose of Federal Trucking Regulations
To avoid these accidents and to mitigate the damage these accidents cause. The DOT has established extensive laws and regulations to keep you, your family, and the public safe. Specifically, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is considered the official federal regulator for truck safety.
We know that these rules are violated, not only on a regular basis, but many times with knowledge, intent, and recklessness of the trucking industry. The average person would never know of the hundreds of federal regulations that have been enacted specifically to protect the public.
Most victims of trucking accidents, as well as the driving public in general, have little realization that so many of these wrecks have been caused by both open and hidden violations of federal regulations that were passed for your benefit.
Federal regulations regulate drivers, shippers, trucking companies, brokers (who obtain drivers for trucking companies and shippers), and most trucks and trailers. Compliance with these regulations is mandatory, and many people share the responsibilities for this compliance.
By way of examples, Some of the most common regulatory areas of federal trucking laws are listed below:
Federal Trucking Regulations: What They Cover
Federal regulations regulate drivers, shippers, trucking companies, brokers (who obtain drivers for trucking companies and shippers), and most trucks and trailers. Compliance with these regulations is mandatory, and many people share the responsibilities of compliance.
Some of the most common regulatory areas of federal trucking laws are listed below:
- Drug and alcohol testing: Pre-employment drug and alcohol testing requirements must pass a federal clearinghouse. Once a driver is hired, regulations generally require regular drug and alcohol testing annually thereafter; and again after catastrophic crashes. Responsibility for regular drug and alcohol testing and recordkeeping can extend to shippers, as well as employers (motor carriers).
- Insurance: Insurance and bonding are required under federal law, with the minimum requirements only being $750,000 of coverage. This is totally inadequate in catastrophic accidents. An experienced commercial truck accident lawyer is critical in finding hidden insurance and “excess” insurance that too often are deliberately concealed in the hopes of reducing the number of settlements.
- Licensing: Continually maintaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is not only required, but special certification can also be mandatory in many specific circumstances. These too are often ignored or falsified.
Commercial Trucking Laws for States & Motor Carriers
While states issue commercial driver’s licenses (CDL), even states are required to comply with the provisions of the Federal Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act (FCMVSA), 49 U.S.C. 31311(a) and the DOT regulations that follow. Additionally, drivers and motor carriers (i.e., trucking companies) are also regulated by the DOT.
Federal regulations prohibit any trucking company with an “UNSATISFACTORY” safety rating from operating a commercial motor vehicle. Unfortunately, many trucking companies choose to illegally ignore this, resulting in serious accidents. These ratings are covered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FCMVSA) for trucking companies operating trucks in Commerce.
The regulations for trucking companies are extensive, and again are in place to protect the public. All too often, shippers and trucking companies violate these regulations by letting dangerous and faulty trucks operate in the stream of commerce. The requirements for vehicle mechanical components extend to various systems and components of 18-wheelers.
Truck Safety System Requirements
Too often are these ignored:
- Brake systems, including “break-away” and “emergency” systems
- Special brake line protection
- Brake actuators, slack adjusters, and linings
- In-cab warning systems
Trucking Lamps & Electrical Wiring Requirements
- Air pressure and vacuum lamps
- Reflective safety and reflex reflectors for semi-trailers
- Window and glazing construction
- Exhaust systems
Cargo Securement Requirements
Improper loading is frequently the cause of catastrophic accidents. When it happens, it can be easy to cover and hide this form of negligence. Many victims will never know the cause of their injuries. Although load securement requirements can vary by the type of load, generally, these regulations pertain to the minimum standards for securement devices; and cab frames, and body components, and suspension systems
Hours of Service Requirements
The federal government restricts how many hours truckers can work before they are required to have rest or off-duty time. These regulations, known as hours-of-service rules, are in place to protect the public and prevent driver fatigue, one of the most common causes of truck accidents. And HOS rules are strictly enforced.
Few commercial truck accident attorney know about the recent requirements to maintain electronic logs, in addition to old paper requirements, for documenting HOS compliance. Knowing how to read these electronic logs can easily be confusing.
If you or a family member have been involved in a truck accident, it costs you nothing to call us commercial truck accident lawyer at 786-296-0411 and request a free consultation. We are available 24/7.