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Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations

The commercial trucking industry is an essential part of the economy. Commercial truck drivers are responsible for getting the products and items that we need to their destinations. Commercial vehicles come in many sizes from small trucks to 18-wheelers, semis, big rigs, and dump trucks. While each state has its own department of transportation, which sets forth the laws, and requirements of commercial drivers within the state, many commercial drivers cross state lines. Therefore the federal government enacted its own set of laws and regulations, which were collected and promulgated, by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and conjunction with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  These Federal Laws apply to interstate state trucking operations.

Violations of FMCSR

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, or FMCSR, are the federal trucking regulations enacted and enforced by the FMCSA. While there are certain exemptions to these laws these laws and regulations apply to any employer, employee, and commercial motor vehicle that transports property, goods, or passengers in interstate commerce. One notable exception is for those who do not engage in the business of transporting goods, property, or people for hire.  When there is a truck accident involving a violation of the FMSCR regulations, this will often serve as the basis for liability and tends to show that the driver was negligent.

The FMSCR sets the minimum requirements for the safe operation of both commercial vehicles and trucking companies that engage in interstate commerce.

As FMCSR are the minimum federal requirements for the safe operation of trucks and trucking companies involved in interstate commerce, truck drivers and trucking companies may be found liable for a truck accident victim’s injury or death even when the truck driver and company had fully complied with all applicable FMCSR and other federal (and state) regulations. A driver’s or company’s violation of FMCSR, on the other hand, may be found to constitute negligence per se in such a personal-injury action. This means that proof of the violation itself will be seen to establish the defendants’ negligence, unless the defendants provide evidence sufficient to refute the defendants’ negligence.

If a driver violates any of the provisions of the FMSCR they can be subject to civil penalties and or criminal penalties depending on their violation. Certain sections of the FMSCR carrier specific penalties such as penalties pertaining to violating out-of-service orders. If a driver is convicted of violating an out-of-service order they can be fined a penalty of $2,500 or greater for the first conviction and $5,000 or greater for a second conviction. In addition, to the civil penalties imposed by the FMSCR, if a driver has violated the FMSCR provisions, then this can serve as the basis of liability for a civil case.

FMCSR Related to Vehicle Safety

There are many provisions and sections in the FMCSR that pertain to the safety and care of commercial vehicles. One of the notable provisions of the FMSCR is the section that requires commercial vehicles to have properly operating brakes. The brakes that are fitted to a commercial vehicle need to be adequate to control the particular commercial motor vehicle and to stop and hold such vehicles. Section 396.3 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires that all motor carriers inspect, repair, and maintain their vehicles.  In addition, to ensure that all vehicles on the road are safe the FMSCR requires that:

  • An identification of the vehicle including company number (if so marked), make, serial number, year, and tire size. If the motor vehicle is not owned by the motor carrier of passengers, the record must identify the party providing or leasing the vehicle.
  • A means to show the nature and due date of the various inspection and maintenance operations to be performed.
  • A record of inspection, repairs, and maintenance showing their date and type.
  • A record of tests conducted on push-out windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights on buses.

There are a number of other safety violations that a driver or their company can make. While these violations may not be conclusive that the driver was negligent in the event of an accident, they tend to be strong support and may be the basis of why there was an accident to begin with.


To schedule a private, no-cost evaluation, call the truck accident lawyers of Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team at (215) 709-6940 or contact us online. If the statute of limitations expires, your window of legal opportunity will close and you won’t be able to pursue a claim.

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