The trucking industry is the backbone of commerce in the United States, responsible for transporting goods that keep our economy moving. To ensure safety on the road and the integrity of this vital sector, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established a comprehensive set of rules and regulations that trucking companies must adhere to. These rules cover everything from driver qualifications and hours of service to vehicle maintenance and safety standards.
But what occurs when a trucking company disregards or violates these FMCSA rules?
Those within the industry and anyone who shares the road with these massive vehicles must understand these repercussions.
In this blog post, we’ll examine the potential legal, financial, and safety implications that arise when truckers break FMCSA, shedding light on the significance of compliance in an industry where safety is paramount.
If you’re involved in a truck accident caused by a trucking company’s negligence or failure to adhere to safety regulations, reach out to an experienced truck accident lawyer who can help you seek justice and compensation.
What Are FMCSA Rules for Truck Drivers?
FMCSA rules cover trucking operations and reduce the risks associated with large commercial vehicles. Failure to comply with these rules can result in penalties, fines, and potential loss of operating authority. Here are some key FMCSA rules for truck drivers:
Hours of Service (HOS) and Electronic Logging Devices (ELD)
FMCSA has strict regulations governing how long a truck driver can operate a commercial motor vehicle without taking breaks and rest periods. The most common HOS rules include an 11-hour driving limit after 10 consecutive hours off-duty and a maximum of 14 consecutive hours on duty.
Following hours of service regulations can reduce driver fatigue. Truck drivers must also use electronic logging devices to record their driving hours accurately. ELDs have replaced paper logbooks to prevent the falsification of records.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
FMCSA requires regular drug and alcohol testing for truck drivers. This ensures that drivers do not operate their vehicles under the influence of substances that can impair their judgment or reaction times. This includes alcohol, amphetamines, and marijuana.
Truck drivers must meet specific qualifications, including age and physical health. They need a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) with the appropriate endorsements for the vehicle they operate.
Adhering to the Rules of the Road
Like other motorists, truck drivers must adhere to the rules of the road, abide by posted speed limits, and not engage in distracted driving, such as texting or using a handheld device.
What Are the FMCSA Rules for Trucking Companies?
FMCSA rules also cover the trucking industry to reduce risks and improve safety standards. Here are some key FMCSA rules for trucking companies:
Operating Authority & Safety Fitness
Trucking companies must obtain operating authority from FMCSA to legally transport property, passengers, or household goods for compensation. This authority typically includes a Motor Carrier (MC) number.
FMCSA conducts safety inspections and compliance reviews to ensure that trucking companies and drivers follow the rules and maintain safe operations.
The administration assesses a trucking company’s safety performance and assigns a safety fitness determination. Companies generally need a satisfactory rating to operate legally. Companies can face safety inspections and compliance reviews by FMCSA to ensure they follow safety regulations.
Truck companies must also establish and maintain safety management systems to systematically identify and address safety and compliance issues. This includes tracking violations and addressing safety concerns.
Trucking companies must maintain their vehicles to ensure their safety. This includes routine inspections, maintenance records, and the immediate correction of any defects or safety issues.
Cargo Securement & Weight Limits
Companies follow FMCSA guidelines and properly secure cargo to prevent shifting, falling, or leaking. FMCSA also sets weight limits for trucks to prevent overloading, which can compromise the vehicle’s stability and road safety.
Trucking companies must maintain appropriate levels of liability insurance coverage. The minimum coverage amounts vary depending on the type of cargo and vehicle.
What Happens if a Truck Driver or Trucking Company Violates FMCSA Rules?
Violating FMCSA rules can have serious consequences for both truck drivers and trucking companies. Penalties for violations can range from fines and citations to the suspension or revocation of a truck driver’s CDL or a trucking company’s operating authority.
Violations of FMCSA rules may include:
- Exceeding Hours of Service rules or not taking required breaks from driving
- Having a malfunctioning electronic logging device or manipulating ELD records
- Failing a drug or alcohol test or refusing to take one
- Operating a commercial vehicle without the required enforcement on the CDL
- Failing safety inspections or failing to conduct mandatory or regular vehicle maintenance
- Overloading a truck
- Failing to secure cargo
How Can FMCSA Violations Affect a Truck Driver or Trucking Company After a Truck Accident?
FMCSA violations can play a significant role in legal proceedings after a trucking accident. They can establish liability and support claims for damages in lawsuits or insurance claims.
Here’s how FMCSA violations can affect truck drivers or trucking companies after a trucking accident:
FMCSA violations can establish negligence on the part of the truck driver or the trucking company. When a violation of FMCSA regulations contributes to the accident, it can show that the driver or company failed to meet their legal duty to operate safely and within the law.
Violations may demonstrate that the truck driver’s or company’s actions directly caused or contributed to the accident. For example, if a driver exceeded hours of service limits and was fatigued at the time of the accident, this violation could show that fatigue caused the crash.
Demonstrating Breach of Duty
FMCSA regulations set forth specific standards and duties for truck drivers and companies. Violations can prove a breach of those duties, which can establish that the driver or company acted negligently.
Strengthening Liability Claims
Plaintiffs in personal injury or wrongful death cases may use FMCSA violations to strengthen their claims against the truck driver and the trucking company. These violations can demonstrate wrongdoing to the court or insurance companies.
Insurance Claim Denials
Insurance companies may use FMCSA violations to deny claims. If the truck driver or company violated safety regulations at the time of the accident, it may give the insurer grounds to deny the claim.
Expert witnesses, such as accident reconstruction specialists or safety experts, may use FMCSA violations to support their opinions about the causes of the accident. These experts can provide professional analysis of how regulatory violations contributed to the crash.
In cases of severe or intentional violations, the truck driver or company may face criminal charges, which can lead to penalties, fines, and even imprisonment. They can face these charges in addition to civil lawsuits.
Citations or penalties issued by FMCSA or state authorities for violations can serve as evidence in legal proceedings, further supporting claims of negligence or non-compliance.
Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer to Protect Your Rights
When a trucking company violates FMCSA rules it can lead to devastating accidents with life-altering consequences for victims.
However, if you find yourself in a truck accident due to a trucking company’s negligence or non-compliance with safety regulations, you don’t have to face the aftermath alone.
An experienced truck accident lawyer can advocate for you, working tirelessly to hold the responsible parties accountable and seeking the justice and compensation you deserve. By seeking legal representation, you not only protect your rights but also contribute to making the roads safer for everyone. Make your well-being and the safety of our highways your top priorities. A dedicated attorney can ensure that accountability and safety prevail.
Contact a Long Island personal lawyer from Rosenberg & Gluck LLP today for a free review of your case and hear your options for financial recovery.