What Rules and Regulations do Truck Drivers Need to Follow?

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Accidents that involve commercial trucks are often the result of a Truck Driver or Trucking company violating one or many of the rules and regulations set for them by their governing bodies. 

If you are ever involved in an accident with a large commercial vehicle, it is important that you, as well as your attorney, have an in-depth understanding of the laws that they must follow so that you can get the financial compensation that you deserve.

Who is in Charge of Trucking Regulations?

Trucking Rules and Regulations are monitored mainly by two organizations, one at the federal level and one at the state level.

The federal level organization that establishes and enforces trucking rules and regulations is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is a sub-branch of the Department of Transportation.

A list of all of the rule, regulations, and laws enacted by the FMCSA can be found in Title 49 of Code of Federal Regulations.

At the state level, organizations such as the state department of transportation and office of public safety.

Depending on the state, there may be different rules and regulations that Truck Drivers must follow.

Although there are many different laws in place, the main categories that they apply to include:

  • Licensing Requirements 
  • Hours of Operation
  • Electronic Logging Device Rule
  • Special Training and Physical Requirements
  • Driver Drug Testing
  • Securing Cargo

In this article, we will go over the main rules and regulations in each of the above categories that the trucking industry must follow, and how violations of them can lead to accidents and financial compensation for the affected victims.

To which vehicles do these rules and regulations apply?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) Laws were made for Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMV) for the purpose of keeping our roads as safe as possible. 

But what qualifies as a Commercial Motor Vehicle?

According to the Regulations, a vehicle is considered a CMV if it is used as a part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and fits any of the following:

  • Has a weight of 10,001 lbs or more
  • Is used or designed to transport 16 (not including the driver) or more passengers for compensation
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 lbs or more.
  • Is transporting Hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards.
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation.

If any of the above apply to the vehicle in question, then that vehicle must follow the rules and regulations set forth by their respective state and the FMCSA.

Licensing Requirements

According to part 383 of title 49, Commercial Truck drivers must have a commercial drivers license (CDL). In order to get a government issued CDL, certain requirements must be met, including:

  • Own a Regular Drivers License
  • Have a Relatively Clean Driving Record
  • Are at least 21 years of age (if planning on crossing state lines)
  • Pass the CDL knowledge and road tests
  • Be in good physical condition and able to obtain medical verification.

If a person is able to pass all of the above requirements, they will usually be eligible to obtain their Commercial Drivers License.

Furthermore, if a driver wishes to be allowed to transport hazardous materials, they are usually required to pass additional testing before they can earn a valid license.

Hours of Service

The Hours of Service regulations were enacted to help eliminate the risk of driver fatigue that can often lead to accidents.

Hours of Service Regulations are restrictions regarding the amount of driving Commercial Truck Drivers are allowed to complete in certain timeframes. 

These regulations include the following parameters:

  • If hauling property, Truck drivers can drive for 11 hours each day only after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • After coming on duty, drivers cannot drive beyond their 14th hour in a row.
  • Truck Drivers are not permitted to drive after 60 hours in seven days in a row.
  • If a driver hits the 70 hours of driving within a week, they may only resume driving if they rest for 34 hours straight. This test must include at least 2 nights, which includes the hours between 1:00 am - 5:00 am.
  • Truckers must take at least one 30-minute break during the first eight hours of their shifts.

Electronic Logging Device Rule

The Electronic Logging Device is a special device that became mandatory for all truck drivers to have in order for compliance with the Hours of Service Regulations.

These devices connect directly to a truck's engine, making it easier for the driver to have accurate records of their driving times.

Special Training and Physical Requirements

 In order to maintain their Commercial Drivers License, Truck Drivers must undergo special training and pass a physical exam every two years.

If a driver fails to complete their continuing education or physical exam, they risk losing their Commercial Drivers license.

Commercial Truck Driver Drug & Alcohol Testing  

When it comes to alcohol and controlled substances, the FMCSA has enacted their own policies which are more strict than laws that regulate regular drivers.

In order to be in compliance with Truck Drivers:

  1. Must not have a BAC of 0.02 or more when reporting for duty.
  2. May not carry alcohol with them while driving, unless it is cargo.
  3. May not have any alcohol or drugs in their system that may affect their driving ability in the eight hours leading up to a shift. 

Rules for Securing Cargo

The rules for loading and securing cargo were updated in 2004 in order to make cargo more secure and minimize the chances of it becoming unhinged and falling off a truck.

Included in these regulations are better provisions for tying down cargo and the use of better-securing devices.

Depending on the type of cargo that a truck is carrying, these regulations also require certain vehicle markings including their USDOT number, Hazmat markings, and more.

Why Understanding Trucking Laws Is Important

When a person is involved in an accident with a commercial truck, it can cause serious debilitating injuries that can last a lifetime.

Oftentimes, these accidents are the result of a violation of one of the aforementioned rules or regulations, and this means that the victim is eligible to receive financial compensation.

However, discovering what type of violation occurred can be difficult because the truck driver and trucking company will want to protect their own interests.

By having an in-depth understanding of the different rules and regulations that must be followed, as well as how companies try to get around them or hide violations greatly increases a victims chances of winning their lawsuit and getting the compensation that they deserve.

To discover more about semi-truck accident lawsuits and regulations, refer back to this faq guide.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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