What Laws Are Designed to Prevent Truck Accidents?
In the vast network of roads and highways that crisscross our nation, ensuring the safety of both truck drivers and other drivers is of paramount importance.
The regulatory framework governing the trucking industry plays a crucial role in preventing accidents and maintaining road safety.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
At the heart of trucking safety regulations lies the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), overseen by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These comprehensive regulations cover a spectrum of critical areas, including driver qualifications, vehicle maintenance, and road safety.
Hours of Service Regulations
Driver fatigue is a leading cause of truck accidents. To mitigate this risk, Hours of Service (HOS) regulations limit the amount of time a commercial driver can spend on the road without adequate breaks and rest periods.
“Hours of service” refers to the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be on duty, including driving time, and specifies the number and length of rest periods to help ensure that drivers stay awake and alert. In general, all carriers and drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) must comply with HOS regulations.
Property Carrying Drivers:
- May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Drivers must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. The break may be satisfied by any non-driving period of 30 consecutive minutes (i.e., on-duty not driving, off-duty, sleeper berth, or any combination of these taken consecutively).
- May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
- Drivers are allowed to extend the 11-hour maximum driving limit and 14-hour driving window by up to 2 hours when adverse driving conditions are encountered.
- A driver is exempt from the HOS requirements if operating within a 150-air-mile radius of the normal work reporting location and the driver does not exceed a maximum duty period of 14 hours.
Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance
Regular inspection and maintenance of commercial vehicles are imperative to prevent accidents caused by mechanical failures. FMCSA outlines specific requirements for ensuring the proper working condition of trucks.
The basic requirements include:
- Every motor carrier shall systematically inspect, repair, maintain, and record all motor vehicles subject to its control.
- Parts and accessories must be in safe and proper condition at all times.
- Pushout windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights must be inspected and recorded at least every 90 days.
Overloaded trucks can compromise stability and braking capabilities, leading to accidents. Laws stipulate maximum weight limits for commercial vehicles. Understanding these weight limits is crucial for the safety of both truck drivers and the motorists around them.
As of July 2023, federal law limits commercial vehicles to:
- Gross vehicle weight: 80,000 lbs.
- Single axle: 20,000 lbs.
- Tandem axle group: 34,000 lbs.
These limits apply to the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. States can set their own commercial vehicle weight standards off the Interstate Highway System.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
Impaired driving poses a significant risk on the roads. Commercial drivers are subject to regular drug and alcohol testing to ensure they are fit to operate their vehicles safely.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 37 people in the US are killed in drunk-driving crashes every day — roughly one person every 39 minutes. 13,384 people died in alcohol-impaired driving accidents in 2021, 14% more than in 2020, and these numbers continue to climb.
Unfortunately, this applies to drivers of trucks and commercial vehicles as well, despite strict laws and enforcement.
While most drivers are subject to a maximum blood alcohol content level of 0.08 as the legal limit for impairment, this percentage is typically much lower for commercial drivers. 0.04 percent BAC level is the BAC for a commercial driver in most states.
CDL drivers are subject to pre-employment, post-accident, and unannounced random drug testing for the following classes of substances:
- Opiates — opium and codeine derivatives
- Amphetamines and methamphetamines
- Phencyclidine — PCP
The FMCSA requires drivers to have a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). It also requires truck drivers to take and pass a physical exam every two years, which includes drug and alcohol testing.
A positive drug test result, an alcohol concentration of .04 or more, or a refusal requires the driver to be immediately removed from operating any CMV on public roadways.
Other legal requirements may include:
- A valid commercial driver’s license (CDL)
- Electronic logging devices (ELDs)
- Mandated training and certification programs for commercial drivers.
In addition, trucking companies must maintain sufficient insurance coverage for those affected by injuries or property damage.
From driver qualifications to vehicle maintenance, each law that’s designed to prevent truck accidents plays a pivotal role in ensuring the safety of our roads.
By staying informed and adhering to these regulations, we all contribute to a safer and more secure transportation landscape.
For the most up-to-date and accurate information or to discuss a potential claim, contact our expert Seattle truck accident attorneys at the Trucking Injury Law Group today.