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What Federal Regulations Govern Truck Safety?

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Truck crashes can be devastating. In an effort to protect truckers and other motorists from serious truck accidents, catastrophic injuries, and fatalities, the federal government has enacted various regulations.

What Those Regulations Say

There are many federal regulations that impact truck safety. Below is an overview of some of the important federal rules and regulations that are in place to help prevent truck crashes.

Commercial Drivers’ License Requirements

According to federal regulations, the purpose of requiring drivers to have commercial drivers’ licenses is to “help reduce or prevent truck and bus accidents, fatalities, and injuries” (Title 49 CFR §383.1). A trucker must complete the requirements for a commercial driver’s license and have such a license issued before operating a commercial vehicle on public roads.

Drug and Alcohol Testing for Truckers

All truckers with commercial drivers’ licenses who drive on public roads may be subject to drug and alcohol testing. Drug testing may include testing for the following substances: cocaine, marijuana, opiates, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and phencyclidine (PCP). Additionally, drivers with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.02% or greater may be identified through testing.

Truckers may be tested before they begin employment, randomly during employment, upon reasonable suspicion during employment, when they return to work after a violation, and after accidents.

Physical Qualifications for Truckers

A trucker must be medically certified as physically qualified to drive a truck in order to operate a commercial vehicle. This requires a trucker to obtain a medical examiner’s certificate that provides documentation of physical fitness to drive a truck. The regulations are specific in all of the medical conditions that must be considered. This includes (but is not limited to) impairments of the arms, hands, legs or feet; diabetes requiring insulin; epilepsy; mental conditions; and other medical conditions.

Truck Inspections

It is the driver’s responsibility to make sure that the truck is in good working order before the driver gets on the road. This includes an inspection of tires, brakes, lighting, steering mechanisms, and other parts of the truck. Additionally, drivers are required to inspect cargo prior to driving to make sure that it is properly distributed and does not interfere with the truck’s safety.

Hours of Service

Federal rules restrict how long a trucker can drive in a single day and in a given week. Currently, the regulations for a truck that is carrying only cargo—and not passengers—allow a trucker to drive for a maximum of 11 hours after 10 hours off-duty. These 11 hours of driving must be completed within a total of 14 hours of coming on-duty. Additionally, a trucker may not drive more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days. The “week” restarts after 34 consecutive hours off-duty.

Distracted Driving Prevention

Federal regulations prohibit commercial drivers, including truckers, from texting and driving. Texting is defined as manually entering text into or reading text from any electronic device. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “Texting includes (but is not limited to), short message services, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a Web page, pressing more than a single button to initiate or terminate a call using a mobile telephone, or engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or entry, for present or future communication.”

Regulations Can’t Prevent All Truck Crashes

At the scene of a truck crash, it can be impossible to know whether the trucker or trucking company was in compliance with all applicable regulations. It is important for a full investigation to be done, however, to determine what caused your crash and whether any regulations were disregarded.

If the trucker or trucking company was not complying with federal regulations or if a trucker or trucking company caused your accident injuries by being otherwise negligent, then you may be able to make a legal recovery. You need to speak with an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible in order to protect your claim and so that you can learn about more tips and resources to protect your truck accident recovery. Contact us online or call us directly at 800.800.5678 to schedule your free consultation. 

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham

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