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by Jeff Rasansky - April 6, 2017
Jeff Rasansky
Jeff Rasansky, managing partner of Rasansky Law Firm, is an aggressive Dallas personal injury lawyer with 25 years of legal experience.

Did you know that there are specific federal laws which apply only to transportation companies and their drivers?

The adherence to these laws is important—not only because they are designed to keep all motorists safe, but also because they could have a big impact on the strength of a accident victim’s potential claim or lawsuit.

FMCSA Rules for Commercial Motor Vehicles

Federal Laws Governing Truck Drivers

We all know that driving a bus or 18-wheeler truck—which can weigh upwards of 80,0000 pounds—is a lot different than driving a passenger vehicle. They take longer to stop, they’re more-difficult to maneuver, and when they’re involved in an accident, the results are often fatal.

Because these trucks and buses share our roadways, and in an effort to promote safety for all commuters, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created a set of additional regulations which apply solely to transportation companies and drivers of commercial vehicles in the US.

If a truck driver is involved in a car accident, and it’s discovered that the trucker or transportation company they work for had violated any of these regulations, they’re simply opening themselves up to liability.

Juries do not appreciate companies who skirt federal safety regulations and injure or kill innocent motorists, and neither do our attorneys. If one of our clients is hit by an 18-wheeler, you can be certain that we will fully-investigate the actions of the truck driver and their employer, and seek every single penny that our client deserves.

While there are many federal rules and regulations which apply to truck drivers and their employers, we’ll discuss some of the more-important ones below.

Hours-of-service regulations.

Given the nature of the job, truck drivers are required to take regular breaks due to the fact that fatigue can breed inattention, making accidents much more likely to occur.

To begin with, all property-carrying commercial truck drivers are only permitted to drive up to a maximum of 11 hours after being off duty for 10 consecutive hours. This helps them recharge and remain cognitively sharp when operating such a large vehicle. Those that are carrying passengers may drive a maximum of only 10 hours after being off duty for 8 hours, back-to-back. Truck drivers are also required to stop driving after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. Should they want to start another 7/8 day period, they are required to spend 34 or more hours off duty.

The hours-of-service rules can be a bit convoluted at first glance, but feel free to see this page for a full breakdown.

Drug and alcohol testing.

In 1991, Congress passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act, which requires drug and alcohol testing for all safety-sensitive transportation employees in an effort to reduce the number of drunk driving accidents caused by truckers. The FMCSA sets rules and regulations for employees who drive commercial trucks and buses that require a commercial driver’s license (CDL), including when employees are tested.

No commercial driver is exempt from drug and alcohol testing, and this includes full-time, part-time, back-up and intermittent drivers. As for the substances tested, examples include cocaine, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, as well as phencyclidine. Testing usually occurs during the pre-employment phase, randomly throughout employment, as well as right after an accident.

Should a driver fail a test or refuse to submit to testing (which is automatically considered a failed test), their immediate removal from performing any functions that are safety-sensitive (such as driving) is required by law.

Maintenance requirements.

All buses and commercial trucks using public roads must be systematically inspected and maintained on a regular basis, as this significantly lowers the chances of an accident occurring. The law also requires that all parts and accessories be kept at in good operational condition at all times. When it comes to emergency doors, push out windows, and emergency marking lights, inspections must be performed at least once every 90 days. Motor carriers are also required to keep records of all inspections, repairs, and maintenance operations for each vehicle.

Minimum insurance requirements.

Insurance varies due to the different sizes and functions of these trucks. However, a truck that is over 10,000 lbs and carrying non-hazardous material is required to have a minimum of $750,000 in auto insurance.

A minimum of $1,500,000 is required for buses and passenger-carrying vehicles which hold 15 or fewer passengers, and $5,000,000 for those which carry over 15 passengers.

Mobile phone use.

Lastly, the FMCSA forbids the handheld use of mobile phones for ALL drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) while driving, due to the fact that distracted driving is one of the major causes of truck accidents.

In addition, drivers are not allowed to type or read text messages, nor do they have the green light to pick up their phones to answer a voice call. As a rule of thumb, truckers are encouraged to use a hands-free device should they absolutely need to be in touch with others while driving.

If you have questions or would like to see a full list of all FMCSA rules and regulations, we recommend consulting the FMCSA website’s regulations page.

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