The US government’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established in 2000 to help regulate the trucking industry and improve safety standards around the country. The FMCSA’s regulations have the force of law, and must be followed by all trucking companies and drivers in the United States. Many trucking accidents are caused by trucking companies and drivers who fail or refuse to follow trucking rules and regulations. When dangerous trucking companies ignore the rules, courts are often willing to award victims extra damages to punish the trucking companies.
When large trucks, 18-wheelers, and tractor trailers fail to follow these rules, they put other drivers and passengers at risk. If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident, or a loved one died in a truck accident, talk to an attorney today. The truck accident lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team fight for injured truck accident victims. We work to get compensation for injuries, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Common Trucking Regulation Violations
Many of the rules that regulate the trucking industry work to keep safe vehicles, safe drivers, and diligent companies on the road. These regulations can be organized into four general categories: Hours of Service rules, maintenance rules, loading rules, and hiring rules. Violating any of these rules could lead to an accident. Victims of truck accidents should be aware of some of the rules, and how a violation could have caused their injuries.
Hours of Service Rules
The FMCSA’s rules dictate how much driving a truck driver may perform. Humans need sleep, food, bathroom breaks, and short attention spans. This means that, while a truck may be able to run smoothly for miles, humans cannot. The FMCSA dictates when drivers must take breaks.
Hours of service rules limit the amount of time drivers can go without a break. Drivers must take at least one 30 minute break every 8 hours. They must stop driving after 14 hours on duty, and must take a 10-hour break before they can resume. During those 14 hours, including breaks, drivers cannot drive more than 11 hours. From the first time they go on duty, they cannot drive more than 60 hours in a 7-day window. (Alternatively, they can work 70 hours in 8 days). After this week, they must stay off-duty for at least 34 hours straight.
Drivers who are too tired cannot drive safely. Violating these rules means drivers stay on the road too long, unable to focus and stay awake. Drivers who drive for too many days in a row make mistakes and become careless. These rules help ensure drivers are well-rested and alert. Hours of Service violations are also one of the most common trucking violations.
The FMCSA’s maintenance standards ensure that trucks are safe. Since trucks run for thousands of miles in any given year, they need to be safe. These trucks are built to last for decades, but the upkeep needs to be done with the utmost care to ensure they are safe and will not cause problems on the road.
Like any vehicle, trucks need proper upkeep on their lighting, brakes, tires, and other systems. Daily inspections help ensure that lights function properly and help avoid accidents. Driver training needs to help ensure drivers recognize brake issues before the brakes fail.
Tires are an especially troublesome piece of equipment for trucks. Since they wear down quickly with the amount of driving trucks do, trucking companies look for shortcuts. Many of the rear tires are “re-capped” or have the tread replaced, keeping older tires in service for longer. Steering tires on the front wheels have stricter standards for tread condition.
Drivers need to check their tires and the inflation requirements to keep trucks safe. Failing to maintain a truck can lead to catastrophic failure on the highway, injuring other drivers in the crash.
The nation-wide rules limit large trucks to a combined total weight of 80,000 pounds for interstate travel. This is approximately 32-times the weight of a standard sedan. Violating these rules makes trucks too heavy to stop or maneuver properly. Moreover, the added strain on each axle and tire can increase the odds of the truck breaking down and causing an accident. Disobeying weight limits is one of the most common trucking violations, aside from Hours of Service violations.
The FMCSA also dictates standards for how cargo must be loaded and secured. A tractor trailer’s trailer portion is little more than a box on wheels, and has no steering or control of its own. If the trailer is unevenly loaded or the cargo’s center of gravity is too high off the ground or too far forward or backward, controlling the vehicle can become difficult. If a truck fishtails, the entire trailer could fold against the cab in a “jackknife” accident. Swerving and unstable trailers can also flip or crash into cars driving next to the truck.
Using the proper tie-downs and other devices helps ensure that trucks with open beds do not drop cargo at highway speeds is also vital.
The FMCSA makes it illegal for trucking companies to hire drivers who have poor driving records, a history of DUI/DWI, or other problems that may make them unsafe behind the wheel. Some of these rules may not be specifically written in the FMCSA’s regulations, but can still violate other regulations or laws and can lead to damages if they caused an accident.
Drivers must meet the FMCSA’s regulations to be considered “safe” on the road. In many cases, these drivers need a commercial drivers’ license (CDL), which ensures they are properly trained in driving 18-wheeler trucks. They must also have valid medical examination cards, and keep them up to date, proving they are medically fit to drive. Conditions like sleep apnea and seizures can make a driver unsafe on the road. There are even requirements as simple as demanding that drivers be able to speak English.
Random drug testing and background checks help ensure drivers are safe. If a driver fails a drug or alcohol test near the time they will be driving, but is allowed to drive anyway, the driver could cause serious accidents. Failing to report license suspensions or disqualifications can also violate trucking regulations. Hiring drivers with a poor record can lead to additional damages for truck accident victims.
Truck Accident Attorneys for Victims
The lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team fight trucking companies and their drivers to help victims recover from truck accidents. If you or a loved one was injured in a trucking accident, call today. Our attorneys use the FMCSA’s trucking regulations to hold trucking companies accountable for their failures, and the failures of their drivers. Call (800) 896-6173 today for a free consultation on your case.