49 C.F.R. A? 390.3(e) requires:
(e)(1) Every employer shall be knowledgeable of and comply with all regulations contained in this subchapter which are applicable to that motor carrier's operations.
(e) (2) Every driver and employee shall be instructed regarding, and shall comply with, all applicable regulations contained in this subchapter.
(e)(3) All motor vehicle equipment and accessories required by this subchapter shall be maintained in compliance with all applicable performance and design criteria set forth in this subchapter.
Knowledge and training re: regulations
49 C.F.R. A? 390.5(e) requires that trucking companies must be familiar with trucking regulations and instruct their drivers, dispatchers and other employees.
Instruction on rules
49 C.F.R. A? 392.1 provides:
"Every motor carrier, its officers, agents, representatives, and employees responsible for the management, maintenance, operation, or driving of commercial motor vehicles, or the hiring, supervising, training, assigning, or dispatching of drivers, shall be instructed in and comply with the rules in this part."
Motor carrier to require observance of driver regulations
49 C.F.R. A? 390.11 requires:
"Whenever in Part 325 of Subchapter A or in this subchapter a duty is prescribed for a driver or a prohibition is imposed upon the driver, it shall be the duty of the motor carrier to require observance of such duty or prohibition. If the motor carrier is a driver, the driver shall likewise be bound."
Not to "aid or abet" violations
49 C.F.R. A? 390.13 provides that "[n]o person shall aid, abet, encourage, or require a motor carrier or its employees to violate the rules" of the FMCSR.
It says "no person" rather than "no motor carrier." If the evidence supports it, the plaintiff may make a claim against a company owner individually if the owner was personally involved in dispatching a driver for trips that could not be completed without violation of hours of service and fatigue rules.
Paying truck drivers by the mile, and not paying for inspections, required rest time, time out of service due to safety concerns, etc., may encourage violations of regulations.
It is common for carriers to pressure drivers to make deliveries that cannot possibly be done without breaking the hours of service and fatigue rules.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations preempt any lower standard
49 C.F.R. A? 392.2 requires:
"Every commercial motor vehicle must be operated in accordance with the laws, ordinances, and regulations of the jurisdiction in which it is being operated. However, if a regulation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration imposes a higher standard of care than that law, ordinance or regulation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulation must be complied with."
Impaired drivers of commercial trucks in interstate commerce
1. Fatigue, illness, etc. 49 C.F.R. A? 392.3 provides:"No driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle, and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle, while the driver's ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle.
2. Hours of service. (1) Time. 49 C.F.R. A?395.3 -- 11 hours driving in 14 hour shift after 10 hours continuous off duty. No more than 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days.
3. Drugs. 49 C.F.R. A? 392.4 provides that "No driver shall be on duty and possess, be under the influence of, or use, any of the following drugs... (list in web site)
4. Alcohol. 49 C.F.R. A? 392.5 absolutely prohibits use or possession of alcohol in operation of a commercial motor vehicle. (details on web site)
Schedules to conform with speed limits.
49 C.F.R. A? 392.6 mandates that:
"[n]o motor carrier shall schedule a run nor permit nor require the operation of any commercial motor vehicle between points in such period of time as would necessitate the commercial vehicle being operated at speeds greater than those prescribed by the jurisdictions in or through which the commercial motor vehicle is being operated."
The official regulatory guidance states daily driving distances that are questionable or presumed excessive in areas with speed limits of 55 mph and 65 mph.
Operation of tractor trailers (big rigs) in hazardous weather & visibility conditions.
49 C.F.R. A? 392.14 provides:
"Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated."
Some courts have held violation of this section is negligence per se. However, judges in other courts have been reluctant to even consider the preemptive effect of this rule.
Screening drivers of tractor trailer and big rigs for training, experience and safety record
49 C.F.R. A? 391.21 specifies what must be included in drivers' employment application. It requires that carriers check driving license records for the last three years, and inquire of previous employment with carriers for the same period, including verification of employment, accidents, DUIs, positive or adulterated drug tests, and refusal to take drug tests.
49 C.F.R. A? 391.25 requires that he carrier must make an annual driving record inquiry and review.
49 C.F.R. A? 391.27 requires that the driver annually certify all traffic violations for the past 12 months. Records of all this must be maintained in the driver qualification file.
Hazards created by large commercial trucks stopped on the roadside
49 C.F.R. A? 392.22 requires that when a commercial motor vehicle stops on a highway or shoulder, the driver must active hazard warning signal flashers, and within ten minutes must place either flares or bidirectional reflective triangles.
If the vehicle is stopped within 500 feet of a curve, hillcrest or other view obstruction, warning devices must be places so as to provide ample warning.
This regulation supports liability, and occasionally even punitive damages, when a motorist crashes into a stopped tractor trailer in poor visibility conditions.
Unauthorized riders in large commercial trucks
49 C.F.R. A? 392.60 prohibits transporting unauthorized passengers in commercial vehicles other than buses.
Violation of this rule, particularly when the passenger is a "romantic interest," may explain driver distractioncontributing to cause of the crash and injury.
Equipment regulations for "big rig" trucks
49 C.F.R. A? 393.1 through 393.209 detail rules governing equipment, including lighting devices, reflectors, electrical equipment, brakes, windows, fuel systems, coupling devices, cargo securement devices, frames, wheels, suspension systems, steering, and various other categories of equipment.
Evidence of various violations of equipment regulations can support the plaintiff's case for liability and, in some instances, punitive damages.
Record keeping requirements in interstate tractor trailer crash cases
Truck accident cases are far more document intensive than most personal injury or wrongful death cases other than products liability and medical malpractice. If a lawyer who is not familiar with all the records and how they are (or are not) maintained, a good case may be lost.
1. Driver qualification and investigation history files. 49 C.F.R. A? 391.51 and 391.53 detail mandatory contents of driver qualification and driver investigation history files.
2. Driver's record of duty status and supporting documents. 49 C.F.R. A? 395.8 requires that "[e]ach motor carrier shall maintain records of duty status and all supporting documents for each driver it employs for a period of six months from the date of receipt," and a long list of operational records.
In representing people in Georgia catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases resulting from tractor trailer / "big rig" crashes, at attorney must understand the rules that trucking companies are required to follow in checking out the background and qualifications of the drivers they entrust with 80,000 pound tractor trailers on the highways.