Federal regulations that govern the trucking industry are not mere formalities; they can play a significant role in shaping the outcome of truck accident lawsuits. Understanding these rules is crucial, as they address trucking safety, driver conduct, and company liability. For victims, these regulations can potentially be the difference between a dismissed claim and a successful pursuit of justice. Below, Russell & Hill, PLLC explains some of these key regulations and how they can affect your potential truck accident case.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, commonly known as FMCSA, is a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Established in 2000, its primary goal is to reduce accidents, injuries, and deaths involving large trucks and buses.
FMCSA enhances road safety through various means. It establishes and enforces regulations that balance safety with efficiency for motor carriers, including trucks and bus companies. The administration uses safety information systems to identify and focus on higher-risk carriers. Additionally, it aims to educate carriers, drivers, and the public on safety issues. FMCSA collaborates with federal, state, and local enforcement agencies, the motor carrier industry, safety groups, and organized labor to reduce crashes involving buses and trucks.
How Do Hours Of Service Violations Affect Truck Accident Lawsuits?
One of FMCSA’s key regulations is the Hours of Service (HOS) rules. These rules are designed to prevent accidents caused by driver fatigue by limiting the number of hours a truck driver can operate. For instance, property-carrying drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving within a 14-hour window after coming on duty, followed by 10 consecutive hours off duty. Additionally, the 30-minute break rule requires drivers to take a 30-minute break after driving for 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption.
When a truck driver violates the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, it can impact a truck accident lawsuit. If the driver was operating beyond the allowed driving hours and fatigue contributed to the accident, this can establish negligence on the part of the driver or the trucking company. Evidence of HOS violations can strengthen the case of the victim by showing that the accident could have been prevented if the regulations had been followed.
Hazardous Materials Regulations
Transporting hazardous materials (hazmat) involves regulations under the Department of Transportation (DOT). The Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) under the Code of Federal Regulations govern the transportation of these materials. This includes specific packaging, labeling, and handling requirements to ensure safety. For example, hazardous materials must be properly classified, and trucks carrying them must have the correct placarding to identify the type of material being transported.
In accidents involving trucks carrying hazardous materials, violations of safety regulations can have serious legal implications. If the truck was not in compliance with the Department of Transportation’s regulations for hazardous materials — such as improper labeling, packaging, or containment — and this contributed to the accident or its severity, the trucking company can be held liable. These violations can also lead to claims due to the increased risk and potential harm caused by hazardous materials.
Commercial Driver’s License Standards
Federal regulations regarding Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL) are established to ensure that truck drivers possess the necessary skills and knowledge to operate large vehicles safely. The FMCSA sets the standards for obtaining a CDL, which includes passing a written knowledge test and a skills test in a vehicle that the driver operates or expects to operate. There are different classes of CDLs, each authorizing the holder to drive different types of vehicles.
If a truck driver involved in an accident does not have the proper Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), or if the CDL is expired or invalid, it can greatly affect a truck accident lawsuit. This lack of a proper license can be used as evidence of negligence, indicating that the driver may not have had the necessary training or qualifications to operate the vehicle safely. The trucking company can also be held liable for allowing an unqualified driver to operate the truck.
Drug And Alcohol Testing Regulations
The FMCSA mandates strict drug and alcohol testing policies for commercial truck drivers. This typically involves random drug tests or testing prior to employment or following accidents. Drivers must have a negative drug and alcohol test before they can be hired, and companies must conduct random tests on a certain percentage of their drivers each year.
Drug and alcohol violations by truck drivers are taken very seriously in truck accident lawsuits. If a driver tests positive for drugs or alcohol after an accident, it can be a key factor in establishing negligence and liability. Such violations can lead to punitive damages, particularly if the influence of drugs or alcohol was a direct factor in causing the accident. The trucking company might also face legal consequences if it is found that they did not conduct the required drug and alcohol testing or ignored previous test results.
Electronic Logging Device Mandate
The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate is a critical FMCSA regulation aimed at enforcing the HOS rules. ELDs automatically record driving time and monitor engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information. This mandate aims to create a safer work environment for drivers and make it easier and faster to accurately track, manage, and share records of duty status (RODS) data.
Electronic Logging Device (ELD) data is crucial in truck accident lawsuits as it provides accurate records of the driver’s hours of service. If the ELD data shows that the driver was not in compliance with HOS regulations at the time of the accident, this can be used as evidence of negligence. The ELD data can prove that the driver was driving more than the legally allowed hours, which might have led to fatigue and contributed to the accident.
Inspections And Maintenance
FMCSA mandates vehicle inspections for commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to ensure road safety. Drivers are required to submit roadside inspection reports to their carriers within 24 hours, especially if a vehicle is deemed ‘out-of-service’ due to safety concerns. Additionally, the FMCSA requires daily Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIR) from drivers, covering any defects or deficiencies in the vehicle. Furthermore, all commercial vehicles must undergo a periodic inspection at least annually, adhering to established standards. The FMCSA also emphasizes the qualifications of inspectors, with motor carriers responsible for maintaining proof of their inspectors’ qualifications.
Relatedly, FMCSA mandates regular maintenance of commercial vehicles, including the brakes, lights, tires, and other critical components. Compliance with these regulations is crucial because if a truck accident occurs due to a maintenance failure, the trucking company can be held liable. So, a breach of inspection and maintenance standards can significantly strengthen the victim’s case, suggesting a disregard for safety protocols and increasing the likelihood of accidents.
Truck Accident Attorneys
If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident, it’s vital to seek the support and guidance of a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who understands the complexities of these cases. At Russell & Hill, PLLC, we specialize in providing compassionate and effective legal representation to truck accident victims. We are committed to helping you understand your rights and options, working tirelessly to secure the compensation you deserve.. Call (800) 529-0842 or contact us online for a consultation. Your path to healing and justice starts here.
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