The Role of Federal Regulations in Truck Accident Cases

Semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles can outweigh cars by several tons, putting car drivers at a serious disadvantage in an accident. It only takes one careless or tired truck driver to cause a multi-car pileup that injures or even kills scores of drivers.

The federal government recognizes that large commercial vehicles are inherently dangerous. For this reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) outlines regulations that truck drivers and their employers must follow.

Learn more about federal regulations and truck accident cases below.

Federal Truck Driver Regulations

California takes federal trucking regulations very seriously. If a trucker or trucking company violates any of these regulations, the violation can have a big impact on the outcome of your personal injury case.

Hours-of-Service Regulations

Truckers spend long hours on the road and can easily develop fatigue without plenty of rest. But some trucking companies will push drivers to make the delivery at any cost, which encourages drivers to keep working even when exhausted.

Drivers must abide by different regulations depending on whether they drive intrastate (within California) or interstate (outside of California).

California says that intrastate truckers must take a 10-hour break after driving for 16 hours. Truckers may also not drive if they’ve been on duty for 80 consecutive hours in the past eight days.

FMCSA regulations apply to truckers who cross state lines. These truckers may only work up to 60 hours in a seven-day period or 70 hours in an eight-day period. Drivers cannot stay behind the wheel for more than 11 hours during a 14-hour shift. Truckers must also take a 30-minute break after driving for eight or more hours since their last break.

Truck Driver Logs

The FMCSA requires commercial drivers to keep logs of their activities during their shifts. These logs include inspection results, stops, and breaks taken.

Many trucking companies have moved away from handwritten logs because drivers could make mistakes in their reports or simply lie about their activities. Modern trucks often feature electronic logging devices that record activities for them.

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

California requires truckers to test for their CDL. This license proves a driver’s fitness for handling a commercial vehicle on California roads.

Prior to earning a CDL, drivers must apply for a commercial learning permit and have the permit for at least 14 days.

The CDL application process includes several tests to ensure driver fitness. Drivers must prove their knowledge with a written test and verify that they are medically healthy enough to drive a truck.

Size, Speed, and Weight Limits

Size, speed, and weight limit regulations vary depending on several factors, such as how a truck’s axles are laid out.

Trucks with more than three axles cannot legally travel at more than 55 miles per hour. The law also requires these trucks to travel in lanes for slow-moving vehicles.

Trucks and trailers together cannot exceed 65 feet in length. Trucks cannot weigh more than 20,000 pounds per axle. Additionally, commercial vehicles can’t exceed a total of 80,000 pounds.

Inspection Requirements

California holds truckers responsible for inspecting their vehicle before each trip. Truckers must verify that they’ve properly secured their cargo. They must also check the brakes, mirrors, steering wheel, and lights. Drivers must perform this inspection again every 150 miles.

If a driver finds problems, they will need to write a report and fix the issues before driving their vehicle. The state requires truckers to keep their reports for 12 months.

Some truckers who find problems will continue to use their vehicle anyway. They may think that the issues aren’t that bad and they don’t have time to waste on repairs. It’s tempting to ignore issues when companies pay drivers based on how fast they make deliveries.

If a trucker hit you because of a mechanical problem that they failed to address, you may be able to hold them liable in a personal injury lawsuit.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

It goes without saying that truckers shouldn’t indulge in drugs or alcohol before embarking on a trip. Employers must test truckers for drug use before hiring them, and they can also test them at any time during their employment.

If you suspect that an intoxicated truck driver hit you, call the police right away. The police will test the driver for alcohol use. If the test comes back positive, that evidence can affect your compensation in a personal injury case.

What Qualifies as a Commercial Vehicle?

Semi-truck drivers aren’t the only ones who must abide by commercial vehicle regulations. The California DMV also considers these as commercial vehicles:

  • Delivery vehicles
  • Moving trucks
  • Logging trucks
  • Garbage trucks
  • Utility vehicles
  • Construction vehicles
  • Cement trucks

Penalties for Noncompliance

Federal regulations and truck accident cases can have major consequences for drivers. The driver may lose their job and face fines from the government. They may also need to pay you damages for the injuries they’ve caused you.

When someone reports a trucker or trucking company for violations, the FMCSA will launch an investigation into the incident. Your truck accident lawyer can use these investigations as evidence in your personal injury case.

How Trucking Regulation Violations Can Support Your Case

To recover damages for your truck accident, you’ll need to prove that the driver or the trucking company acted negligently and that those actions directly led to your injuries.

It’s sometimes difficult to prove liability in truck accident cases. Did the driver hit you because they were speeding? Or did a mechanical part fail because the trucking company didn’t perform maintenance?

Trucking regulation violations can make proving liability easier. With those violations on record, you may have an easier time recovering damages in court.

Contact a Lawyer Who Understands Federal Regulations and Truck Accident Cases

If a commercial driver caused your accident, you need the help of a skilled attorney who has experience with truck accidents in Orange County. Our truck accident lawyers will gather violation reports and eyewitness accounts of the accident to help you build a solid case.

Call Khalil Law Group at (714) 617-7870 for your free consultation today.

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