Federal Trucking Law
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the federal agency responsible for devising the laws, rules, and regulations that govern motor carriers in Utah, United States. The FMCSA has also passed many trucking laws and regulations, which have been designed to increase the safety of bug trucks on the roads of the United States. These laws have been enacted in a bid to reduce truck accidents and also increase the safety of the vehicles, drivers, and other passengers on the roads.
FMCSA Trucking Laws and Rules
Title 49 of Code of Federal Regulations, as designed by the FMCSA, lists all the laws and regulations that govern the entire trucking industry in Utah, United States. The following are highlights of these federal trucking laws and regulations:
Laws and Regulations Applying to Truck Drivers
• Licensing Requirements: According to this rule, truck drivers are allowed to have just one driver’s license, which has been issued to them by their home state. The license can be issued to the truck drivers only after they are successful in clearing knowledge and skill tests. Hazmat (hazardous material) carriers are usually required to pass additional tests before being given a valid license.
• Special Training and Physical Requirements: Truck drivers need to undergo special training and also need to pass a physical exam every two years. Failing this test would restrict them from truck driving.
• Controlled Substances, Alcohol Use and Testing: Part 382 states that no truck driver is allowed to report for duty with a blood alcohol level of 0.02 or more. Truck drivers cannot carry any alcohol with them while driving, unless it forms a portion of their cargo. They cannot have alcohol or other drugs that can affect their driving capabilities, in the 8 hours before a driving shift.
• Hours of Service: Due to the alarming rise in truck accidents as a result of driver fatigue, the FMCSA has changed the rules of hours of service that apply to truck drivers. As per the new rules, truck drivers can drive a maximum of 11 hours in a workday of 14 hours maximum, after which they are required to take a minimum of 10 hours off duty. Truck drivers are also required to maintain log books of their time spent at work and behind the wheel.
Laws and Regulations Applying to Trucks
• Rules for Securing Cargo: Beginning January 1, 2004, the rules for securing cargo and heavy loads in trucks were changed by the FMCSA, in order to make the cargo more secure and minimize the chances of it becoming loose and falling off the vehicle. These rules include new and better provisions for tying down cargo and using better securing devices.
• Required Vehicle Markings: Under this rule, all trucks are required to display certain markings on the vehicle. These include their USDOT number, Hazmat markings, etc. In addition to the above, the FMCSA has passed many rules and regulations that govern the actions of trucking companies, and hazardous material carriers as well. These include, but are not restricted to, complying with USDOT safety rules by trucking companies, unfit carrier rules, hours of service logbook rule for companies, hazardous material regulations and how to comply with them, State Hazmat permission and registration procedures, etc.
Truck drivers and trucking companies must follow both state and federal regulations. The federal regulations are promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and include all aspects of truck driving. Among the categories the federal regulations cover are drug and alcohol testing, hours of service, vehicle marking, and maintenance. A truck driver’s failure to follow a federal or state safety law is strong evidence of negligence after a truck accident causing personal injuries. Not all states recognize the doctrine of negligence per se, but the states that do recognize this doctrine may allow an inference of negligence if the truck driver violated a safety statute, the violation proximately caused an accident, and the victim was a member of the class that the statute was designed to protect. An inference of negligence can make it easier for a victim of a truck accident to recover damages. Even when states do not recognize negligence per se, evidence that a truck driver caused an accident by violating federal or state safety regulations is strong evidence that a duty was breached.
Alcohol and Drug Testing Under Federal Law
The FMCSA drug and alcohol testing rules apply to all operators of commercial motor vehicles with a commercial driver’s license. The test is designed to identify alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, and PCP in the system. There are four potential testing scenarios: pre-employment, reasonable suspicion, random drug tests, and post-accident drug tests. All trucking employers must have a designated employer representative who is required to oversee employer compliance with the drug testing regulations. A trucking company can only permit a driver to perform duties that require safety if he or she gets a negative result on the pre-employment test. The employer must also interview the potential employee as to drug and alcohol testing history, and obtain records from previous employers. When an employer or supervisor harbors a reasonable suspicion that the truck driver has taken drugs or has drunk alcohol, it has a duty to test that driver. Moreover, random tests chosen through a scientifically valid method and without notice to the driver are required. After a fatal truck accident, testing is required, and even when there isn’t a fatality, any commercial truck driver cited for a moving violation that either involved towing of a vehicle or required medical care away from the scene must also be tested for drugs and alcohol. If a police officer pulls over a truck driver for suspected drunk driving and believes the driver is drunk, he or she may require the truck driver to take a Breathalyzer or blood test. The blood alcohol concentration required to cite a commercial truck driver for a DUI is lower than it is for ordinary non-commercial vehicle drivers.
Hours of Service Regulations
Commercial truck drivers must also follow the federal regulations regarding hours of service. Truck drivers hauling property can drive 11 hours each day only after 10 consecutive hours off duty. They may not drive beyond the 14th hour in a row after coming on duty. Furthermore, they are not permitted to drive after 60 hours in seven days in a row, or 70 hours in eight days in a row. Truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week may only resume if they rest for 34 hours in a row. This rest must include at least two nights, including the period from 1-5 a.m. Truck drivers must take at least one 30-minute break during the first eight hours of their shifts.
Federal Regulations for Truckers
Drivers of trucks and commercial vehicles operate their vehicles over hundreds or even thousands of miles of highway. Besides having to pass high standards to be able to operate a large commercial vehicle, a driver must comply by federal regulations that place limitations on the hours that a person can sit behind the wheel. These limitations help to combat a common cause of truck and commercial vehicle accidents: fatigue. Accidents resulting from a truck driver’s fatigue can be life-shattering, especially for the driver and passengers of the vehicle collided with. If you or someone you know was involved in a truck or commercial vehicle accident and believe that driver error contributed to your crash, contact an experienced Utah truck accident attorney.
Commercial Driver’s License Requirements
Even before the driver of a truck or commercial vehicle can get behind the wheel, he or she must pass stringent requirements in order to be granted a commercial driver’s license (CDL). These requirements include:
• Being 21 years of age, if working between states or transporting passengers
• Providing “proof of legal presence,” e.g. a U.S. Passport or certified Birth Certificate
• Supplying a medical certification
• Passing truck and commercial vehicle-specific knowledge tests
• Passing specialized endorsement tests, if applicable
• Passing a truck and commercial vehicle-specific driving test
If a driver gets behind the wheel of a truck or commercial vehicle without a CDL, he or she is in violation of the law and is engaged in negligent behavior. If you were involved in a truck or commercial vehicle accident in which the operator of the truck or commercial vehicle lacked a CDL, contact an Utah truck accident lawyer.
The Driver’s Logbook — Rules of the Road
Besides keeping safe driving patterns, truck and commercial vehicle drivers must keep daily driving records. These records can be kept in a driver’s logbook or on an on-board electronic recording device. Data includes:
• Total hours of time on-duty
• Total hours of time off-duty
• Total miles driven
• Truck or commercial vehicle number
• Motor carrier’s name and address
• City and town names where a stop and change from on-duty to off-duty (or vice versa) occurred
Regulations for Trucks
• Loads and Freight — Loads should be properly loaded and properly secured to prevent leaking, spilling, or falling. The trucking company and the company that loaded the cargo may be liable if cargo slips or falls from the truck and injures someone. There also are numerous stringent regulations regarding shipment of hazardous materials by truck.
• Maintenance — There are a number of regulations pertaining to the maintenance, inspection, and safety of trucks. Trucks are supposed to undergo annual inspections, and truck owners should keep logs of accidents the truck has been involved in. Truck drivers are supposed to perform pre-trip inspections that include checking brakes, steering, lights and reflectors, tires, the horn, windshield wipers, mirrors, coupling devices, and emergency equipment. A report should be prepared and signed by the driver and reviewed by the trucking company.
Federal Regulations and Personal Injury Lawsuits
If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a truck, you may be considering a lawsuit to recover compensation for your injuries and other damages. When issues involving federal laws and regulations are involved, your lawsuit may need to be filed in a federal court instead of a state court. Federal courts have their own rules and systems that are a little different than state courts, so it’ll be crucial to the success of your claim that you’re represented by an attorney with significant experience handling personal injury lawsuits in federal courts. All truck drivers are required to abide by federal trucking regulations. These safety laws are often involved in truck accident cases, since drivers who cause an accident may be found to have violated one or more of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Truck accident victims pursuing a personal injury claim against a truck driver may find that the driver has violated a law or that the trucking company is legally at fault, in addition to the driver. The intention of federal trucking regulations is to provide for the safety of the driver and others on the road. Some regulations prohibit drivers from operating vehicles while under the influence of drugs or other impairing substances, for example, and others mandate that drivers and companies abide by hours-of-operation laws to prevent fatigued drivers from remaining on the road. Other laws require the trucking company and the driver to conduct regular inspections of their vehicles and ensure that brakes and connections are functioning properly. While some regulations may seem like common sense, such as the requirement that drivers use “extreme caution” in hazardous conditions such as snow or sleet, they are strictly interpreted, and there is a legal requirement that drivers immediately discontinue their travel when weather conditions are severe. Accident victims asserting the negligence of a truck driver may rely on a violation of a federal trucking regulation as evidence of a breached duty of care. Proving negligence in an injury claim requires showing that the driver owed a duty of care and breached this duty, and this breach directly led to injuries and damages. In some situations, there may be multiple violations committed by the driver or trucking company. When a trucking company encourages their drivers to meet unreasonable deadlines and ignore laws such as hours-of-service regulations, this may increase the potential value of the victim’s claim. Claims for damages following a commercial truck accident may be large, and often, trucking companies carry high amounts of liability insurance. Truck collisions can lead to serious injuries and after proving the legal liability of the driver and potentially the company, the accident victim will set forth the full range of the damages that were caused by the collision. These include costs for medical treatment, both past care as well as future, expected treatment. Lost wages from work and a decreased earning ability are also types of damages that may be recovered. Finally, victims may find that they suffer emotional pain and suffering as a result of the accident. These non-economic damages may be set forth and recovered in a personal injury claim after a truck crash.
When you need a Trucking Lawyer in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506