Federal Trucking Rules and Regulations
Rule Violations and Liability
Trucking companies and truck drivers are subject to federal regulations that govern every aspect of commercial shipping, issued and enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). After a truck accident that causes serious injuries, any violations of these rules can serve as strong evidence of negligence and make the company liable to the victims.
Hours of Service Regulations
FMCSA has issued specific rules about truck drivers’ hours of service. Fatigued driving is a dangerous activity, particularly when the vehicle is a fully-loaded, 80,000-pound 18-wheeler. For commercial vehicles carrying property (as opposed to passengers), the HOS include the following requirements:
- A truck driver may not start a work shift without first taking ten consecutive hours off duty.
- After coming on duty, a truck driver may only drive during a period of 14 consecutive hours, and may only drive for 11 hours during that period.
- Sleeper-berth rest periods of at least 30 minutes are required after eight hours of driving.
- Truck drivers are not allowed to drive after having been on duty for 60 hours during a period of seven consecutive days; or for 70 hours during a period of eight consecutive days.
- Seven or eight-day driving periods are to end with an off-duty period of 34 consecutive hours or more.
Testing for Alcohol or Drug Use
Trucking companies must conduct alcohol and controlled substance testing of drivers to comply with procedures set forth in federal regulations. Alcohol and drug testing rules apply to any operator with a commercial driver’s license. Testing is designed to identify:
Truck drivers must be tested before their employment begins, at random times during their employment, when reasonable suspicion exists, and after an accident. Trucking companies must have a designated representative charged with overseeing employer compliance with drug-testing regulations.
Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance Regulations
Trucking companies are required to systematically inspect, repair, and maintain all motor vehicles and intermodal (using two or more modes of transportation to convey goods) equipment within their control. All parts and accessories must be in safe and proper operating condition at all times, including, but not limited to:
- Frames and frame assemblies
- Axels and attaching parts
- Suspension systems
- Wheels and rims
- Steering systems
Motor carriers must maintain records for every vehicle they control for a minimum of 30 consecutive days. These records must include identification of the vehicle, identification of the owner of the vehicle, and a record indicating the dates and nature of inspections, repairs, and maintenance on the vehicle.
Trucking companies must ensure their trucks are properly lubricated and free of oil and grease leaks. Commercial trucks may not be operated in a condition likely to cause an accident or breakdown, except to proceed to the nearest place where repairs can be made if the problem is discovered while the truck is on the highway.
Truck Driver Inspection Reports
FMCSA regulations require truck drivers to complete a vehicle inspection report at the end of each day’s work. The report must identify the vehicle and state any defect or deficiency discovered that could affect the safety of operation or result in mechanical breakdown. At a minimum, the driver’s report must cover:
- Service brakes, including trailer brake connections
- Parking brake
- Steering mechanism
- Windshield wipers
- Lighting devices and reflectors
- Rearview mirrors
- Wheels and rims
- Coupling devices
- Emergency equipment
Cargo Securement Regulations
FMCSA published new cargo securement rules in September of 2002, to prevent items from shifting or falling from commercial trucks, causing accidents. Under current requirements, cargo securement systems must be capable of withstanding:
- 0.8 g deceleration in the forward direction
- 0.5 g acceleration in the rearward direction
- 0.5 g acceleration in a lateral direction
The general rule is: “Cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on or within a vehicle by structures of adequate strength, dunnage (loose materials used to support and protect cargo) or dunnage bags (inflatable bags intended to fill space between articles of cargo or between cargo and the wall of the vehicle), shoring bars, tiedowns or a combination of these.”
If you have been seriously hurt in a crash with a large commercial truck, contact Sorey & Gilliland, LLP at (903) 228-3299 as soon as possible. Our Texas and New Mexico trucking accident lawyers are tough advocates for injured people.