What Federal Rules and Regulations Must Truckers Follow?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (49 C.F.R. §§ 350-399) contains federal regulations applying to all vehicles engaged in interstate commerce. Individual state regulations may also apply. Demonstrating the violation of any of these rules may itself prove breach of a duty of care in a truck accident case. Some of the most important of these regulations follow.
- Drug and Alcohol Testing - drivers of semi-trucks, 18-wheelers, and other vehicles that weigh over 26,000 pounds, are designed to carry 16 or more occupants, or carry hazardous materials are subject to mandatory drug and alcohol testing to prevent truck accidents. (49 C.F.R. § 382).
- Commercial Driver’s License and Safety Briefing Requirements - drivers in the above categories must obtain a Commercial Driver’s License. They must be taught how to safely operate a truck; how to avoid abusing and misusing the truck’s features; and how fatigue, poor vision, and substance abuse may hamper their ability to avoid truck accidents. (49 C.F.R. § 383).
- Driver Qualifications - drivers must be at least 21, English-speaking, non-felons, physically capable of operating a truck safely, and have no serious violations of traffic safety laws. (49 C.F.R. § 391).
- Specific Rules for Driving - all involved with operating commercial motor vehicles must:
- obey all traffic laws
- load cargo safely
- periodically inspect the vehicle
- not use illegal drugs
- not drive while sick
- not drive while fatigued
- drive cautiously in hazardous conditions
- follow specific safety rules near railroad tracks (49 C.F.R. § 392).
- Proper Parts and Accessories - specific regulations spell out how the commercial vehicle’s lights, brakes, cargo securement systems, and other parts and accessories must be designed and maintained to meet certain standards (49 C.F.R. § 393).
- Restrictions on Drivers’ Hours of Service - No driver of a property-carrying vehicle may drive or be permitted to drive:
- more than 11 cumulative hours following 10 consecutive hours off-duty;
- for any period after the end of the 14th hour after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty (with certain exceptions);
- after having been on duty 60 hours in any period of 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in any period of 8 consecutive days;
- without taking 34 or more consecutive hours off-duty after the 7 or 8 days of consecutive driving described above. (49 C.F.R. § 395.3)
- Rules for a passenger-carrying vehicle are more strict. (49 C.F.R. § 395.5).
- Requirement to maintain driver’s logs - requirements for manual or automatic recording of a driver’s actions in each 24-hour period are spelled out with great specificity, including exactly what information is to be recorded in what way. (49 C.F.R. § 395.8). “On duty” time means all time from the time a driver begins to work or is required to be in readiness to work until the time the driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work. (49 C.F.R. § 395.2).
- Requirement to keep Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance Records - requires that those operating trucks over 10,000 or the other categories list above ensure that the vehicle is in good working condition; maintain inspection, repair, and maintenance records; and inspect the truck every day before beginning to drive. (49 C.F.R. § 396).
- Transportation of Hazardous Materials - Drivers and others involved with transportation of hazardous materials face additional regulations, including not leaving a vehicle carrying explosives unattended and not smoking near explosive or flammable cargo. (49 C.F.R. § 397).
Federal regulations of the trucking industry are very complex. This is only a sample of some of the most important ones that affect truck accident lawsuits. An experienced California trucking accident attorney can determine whether the truck involved in a given truck accident may have violated one or more of these regulations, helping to establish the existence of negligence if it exists.