Jason Stephens | November 7, 2023 | Truck Accidents
Commercial motor vehicles fall under both federal and state jurisdiction. Many of the regulations that cover them improve safety for truck drivers and other road users. When parties violate these rules, they can cause truck accidents that result in property damage, injury, and death.
After a crash, both the police and your personal injury lawyer will try to determine whether anyone violated any trucking regulations. A violation might prove that the driver or trucking company failed to exercise reasonable care and acted negligently in causing your injuries.
Commercial Motor Vehicle Regulations
Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress passes laws that cover international and interstate commerce. This means the federal government has jurisdiction over anything that affects commercial activity that crosses state lines or international borders.
The federal government has determined that it has the authority to regulate any trucking activities that:
- Start in one state and end in another
- Cross from one country into another, such as trucks that cross the U.S.-Mexico border
- Pass through a state other than the state of origin
- Involve cargo that will eventually pass to another state or country
As a practical matter, almost all trucking in the U.S. involves interstate commerce. Since Texas is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico, and four states, many of the trucks passing through the state carry interstate or international goods.
Areas of Federal Control
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces federal trucking regulations. When trucking companies violate FMCSA regulations, the agency can suspend their license to operate in interstate commerce. As a result, companies have a powerful incentive to follow all the rules set out by the FMCSA.
Federal regulations apply to four types of vehicles:
- Trucks with a gross vehicle weight over 10,000 pounds
- Buses designed to carry more than eight people, including the driver, for a fare
- Buses designed to carry more than 15 people, including the driver, for no fare
- Trucks used to transport hazardous waste
These definitions cover a wide range of vehicles that you might not normally consider commercial motor vehicles, such as cement trucks and church buses. Operators of vehicles that fall into these definitions must comply with federal trucking regulations, including the following:
Federal regulations set the maximum permitted weight for trucks using interstate highways at 80,000 pounds. This weight includes both the truck and its cargo. When trucks weigh less than 80,000 pounds, they do not need any special license or approval from either the U.S. or state government as long as they are approved to operate in interstate commerce.
The FMCSA also defines how drivers and trucking companies must load and secure cargo. The regulations define the types of tie-downs and who has the responsibility for checking them before traveling on public roads. The FMCSA wrote these regulations to reduce the risk of truck crashes caused by shifting or falling cargo.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
The FMCSA requires trucking companies to conduct drug and alcohol testing of drivers at four points:
- Before hiring
- After a crash
- Before returning from a suspension for drug or alcohol use
Trucking companies must keep records of their tests. The federal regulations also tell trucking companies what they must do if a truck driver tests positive. The trucking company must suspend the driver, but it can reinstate them after they complete rehab. If a trucking company fails to administer the required tests, it can face an enforcement action by the FMCSA.
Hours of Service Regulations
Federal trucking regulations set the maximum hours a truck or bus driver can drive.
The hours of service rules for truck drivers state the following:
- Drivers cannot drive longer than 11 hours after a 10-hour break
- Drivers cannot drive past the 14th hour on duty in any 24-hour period
- Drivers must take a 30-minute break after every 8 hours of driving
- Drivers cannot drive more than 60 hours per week or 70 hours per 8 days
When drivers exceed these limits, they risk causing truck accidents due to fatigue. Drivers who drive while tired can easily doze off. But even when they remain awake, their alertness might suffer, leading to slow reactions to road and traffic hazards.
Maintenance and Repairs
Federal regulations require trucking companies to inspect and maintain their vehicles. If a truck or trailer needs repairs, the company cannot put it on the road. According to the FMCSA, some of the most common maintenance issues that cause truck crashes include problems with tires and brakes.
Areas of State Control
Texas has responsibility for three main areas of trucking regulations and enforcement:
Commercial Driver’s Licenses
States handle all testing for commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs). To get a CDL in Texas, a driver must pass a medical examination and pass written and road tests.
Texas also handles suspensions of CDLs. If a driver fails a drug or alcohol test or receives too many traffic citations, the state can suspend their CDL.
Overweight and Oversize Permits
When a truck and trailer combination exceeds the maximum permitted size or weight under federal law, the state can issue an overweight or oversize permit. Generally, the state requires the trucking company to explain the route the truck will take. It may also require pilot cars to warn drivers of the oncoming truck.
Truck drivers must comply with all traffic laws as they pass through a state. In most cases, these traffic laws apply equally to all drivers. For example, all drivers must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
A few traffic laws apply only to large trucks. Many highways in Texas have truck speed limits that are slower than the speed limit for passenger vehicles. And on I-30 in Fort Worth, trucks cannot use the left lane.
Investigating Violations of Trucking Regulations After a Crash
Violations of trucking regulations can increase the risk of a crash. Fortunately, trucking companies must keep records of their compliance with these rules, including logs of driver hours, drug and alcohol testing records, and truck maintenance schedules. Failure to comply with these rules can expose a truck company to a negligence claim after a collision.
If you believe your truck collision resulted from a violation of trucking regulations, speak to an attorney about a possible accident claim.
CONTACT OUR TRUCK ACCIDENT LAW FIRM IN FORT WORTH, TX
If you’ve been injured in an accident in Fort Worth and need legal help, contact our Fort Worth truck accident lawyers at Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents to schedule a free consultation.
Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents
1300 S University Dr # 300
Fort Worth, TX 76107