The trucking industry is a complex enterprise with many different players that work together to transport goods across the United States on a daily basis. While the industry is essential to the U.S. economy, there are also many dangers created by having large and heavy big rigs driving alongside small passenger vehicles at high speeds. For this reason, the federal government created a set of additional rules and regulations that only apply to commercial drivers and trucking companies, called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). These regulations apply to drivers, supervisors, dispatchers, trainers, and others involved in trucking operations
The FMCSRs are intended to keep motorists safe on the roads and to ensure safe operation of commercial vehicles. Often, when an accident occurs, it is because a truck driver or company violated one or more of the FMCSRs. If you have been injured in a truck accident and can prove that a violation occurred, it can significantly help your case. The following are some brief descriptions of some of the regulations most commonly involved in truck accident cases.
Licensing Requirements — There are strict training and examination requirements for a person to receive their commercial driver’s license (CDL) and operate a commercial vehicle. If a person operates a truck without the proper license, he or she is in violation of the law. If a trucking company allows an unlicensed or unqualified driver to operate its vehicle, the company can be fined and may also be held liable for negligent entrustment.
Hours of Service — Because truck drivers may try to push the envelope and spend longer hours on the road, they are at risk of becoming fatigued, losing focus, or even falling asleep at the wheel. Fatigued driving can cause catastrophic accidents, so the Hours of Service regulations limit the amount of time truck drivers can lawfully work before they must take breaks. When fatigued driving accidents occur, a driver’s hours of service should be closely examined.
Drug and Alcohol Testing and Discipline — Driving any vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol is highly dangerous and this danger is compounded when a commercial vehicle is involved. The FMCSRs take drunk and drugged driving very seriously and even require trucking companies to perform random drug and alcohol tests on drivers, as well as after certain types accidents. If a driver fails a drug or alcohol test, they must be properly disciplined, which usually involves suspension of duties and attending treatment. If a company fails to perform testing or properly discipline a driver, it can be fined for violating the FMCSRs.
Health Requirements and Restrictions — Driving a big rig can be stressful as these vehicles are complicated to maneuver and drivers are often on a strict schedule. It is important that every driver is physically and mentally healthy enough to handle the job and to prevent any adverse health events from occurring behind the wheel. The FMCSRs require drivers to undergo a thorough medical exam regularly to ensure they are healthy enough to continue driving. If a driver continues to drive when he knows there is a serious risk for a heart attack, seizure, mental break, or any other sudden health events, he and his company can be subject to fines and penalties under the regulations.
Inspection Requirements — Commercial trucks are complex machines with many moving parts that could fail and cause an accident. The FMCSRs set out strict requirements for when a truck must be inspected and maintained. If a part fails because either the driver or the trucking company failed to conduct a required inspection, it can significantly help your truck accident case.
Conspicuity Requirements — Trailers of large trucks can be difficult for other motorists to see in the dark. Therefore, the FMCSRs require that each trailer have certain reflectors and/or lights to make the trailer conspicuous even at nighttime. There are additional requirements if a driver decides to pull over on the side of the road, such as setting out flares or reflective devices. If a driver fails to meet conspicuity requirements, it can result in a serious collision.
The above are only a few potential FMCSR violations that your truck accident attorney may look for if you have been injured in a serious commercial truck accident.