How Federal Trucking Laws Affect Your Accident Claim
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) develops laws and regulations to keep our highways safe from negligent truckers. Violations of these rules can cause accidents and become evidence in a negligence case.
What are some common federal trucking laws?Federal trucking laws cover everything from vehicle standards to operator qualifications. The following are regulations that commonly have a bearing on accident claims:
- Special training requirements
- License and safety standards
- Hours of service regulations
- Mobile device use regulations
- Regulations requiring routine inspection and maintenance or repair of vehicles
- Driver qualifications and no-tolerance policy on substance abuse
How do licensing and driver training regulations impact an accident claim?For a driver to legally operate a commercial vehicle, that driver must hold a commercial license (CDL). Certain types of commercial vehicles that carry hazardous materials require additional training for a driver to transport those materials. Drivers must also carry proof of vehicle registration and insurance at all times.
A driver who fails to follow any of these regulations will cause questioning of his legal and physical ability to operate his vehicle. Officials may consider untrained drivers to be unsafe operators.
How do hours of service regulations impact an accident claim?Under federal regulations, a truck driver must take adequate off-duty periods between active driving periods. This driving limit ensures the driver is rested and at the optimal condition for driving after long hours on the road.
Current regulations allow a truck driver to be on duty for only 14 hours a day and spend only 11 of those 14 hours on the road. Furthermore, a driver can only log 60 or 70 hours in a seven- or eight-day period, respectively.
Violation of this regulation for service hours might be an indication that the truck driver was fatigued or even fell asleep at the wheel before the accident. It is also a sign of an unsafe and unlawful driver.
How do mobile device and drug/alcohol bans impact an accident claim?It is illegal for a truck driver to be on duty and use, be under the influence of, or possess any of the following:
- Schedule I substances (hard drugs such as heroin and GHB)
- Amphetamines ("pep pills")
- Narcotic drugs or any derivative thereof
- Any other ability-impairing substance
Furthermore, commercial drivers may not use or be under the influence of alcohol within four hours of going on duty or operating their vehicle. It is against the law for a driver to operate a truck with a blood alcohol content of .04 or above.
The law prohibits commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving. This ban also includes email communications. The law also prohibits the use of hand-held mobile telephones while driving a commercial vehicle.
Violations of any of these laws can lead to unsafe driving habits. Drug and alcohol impairment can reduce reaction time and coordination, as well as impair judgment. The use of hand-held phones or texting while driving takes the driver's attention away from the road and increases the risk of accidents.
Employer LiabilityAn employer of a driver who breaks any of these laws is vicariously liable for damages done by the negligent driver. The federal regulations also prohibit a trucking company from directly allowing or encouraging any of these violations; in such cases, the company can be directly liable for accidents resulting from these violations.