The federal government has promulgated extensive regulations that govern the commercial trucking industry to ensure that our roads are safe. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is charged with promulgating and enforcing these rules to reduce commercial truck accidents and fatalities. These regulations apply to truck drivers, employers, and commercial fleets that transport goods or passengers in interstate commerce.
Commercial trucks can present hazards to other motorists simply due to their size and weight. Although these vehicles account for only a small percentage of vehicles on the road, they are responsible for one out of every eight crash related fatalities in the United States. If you have been involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. If a truck driver or their employer violated any federal or state regulation, this is highly persuasive evidence of negligence.
The regulations enacted by the FMCSA are known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, or FMCSR. Some of the main regulations include:
Equipment-Related Safety Regulations: Commercial vehicles must have adequate braking systems for their cargo load and size that are properly maintained. They also must be fitted with specific technology that enhances their visibility on the road. The federal government also imposes safety requirements relating to a truck’s fuel system, windows, mirrors, tires, steering systems, radar detectors, and more.
Driver-Related Regulations: Truck drivers are required to hold a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL). To obtain this license, they must first pass a written and skills test, and get a Medical Examiner’s Certificate certifying their fitness for operating a commercial vehicle. To obtain this certificate, truck drivers must undergo routine drug and alcohol testing.
Employer-Related Regulations: If a trucking company employs a driver who does not hold a CDL, the company can be held liable for injuries caused by their driver-employees. Employers are also required to obtain information about prospective hires’ criminal records, past moving violations, accidents, substance abuse, employment history, and more. Employers also have a duty to ensure their employees are sufficiently trained to operate a commercial truck safely. Employers must also maintain detailed records regarding their employees.
Hours of Service: Many trucking companies require truck drivers to work long hours to turn a profit. Some require drivers to cover a specified distance in a shorter period than can safely be accomplished. Driver fatigue is extremely dangerous, and one of the leading causes of trucking accidents and fatalities. The FMCSA has very strict limits on how many continuous hours a driver is permitted to work, known as “hours of service” regulations. Not all employers adhere to these regulations. The FMCSA requires drivers to keep detailed records of their activities during their shifts, including rest breaks, and driving time. Such log books can serve as valuable evidence in a lawsuit.
Distracted Driving-Related Regulations: Truck drivers are strictly prohibited from using their phones to send or read text messages or emails while driving, among other things. This area of the law is constantly evolving, and as hand-held technology becomes more of a safety issue on our roads, regulations for distracted driving could become increasingly strict.
Cargo-Related Regulations: Trucks should not be overloaded and cargo must be evenly distributed. These rules are intended to protect motorists from shifting and falling cargo.
Hazardous Materials: Trucks carrying “hazmats” are required to carry a special permit that they obtain from the FMCSA. All hazardous materials must be properly labeled and stored as required by law.
Even if a truck driver adheres to all the requirements set forth in the FMCSR, they can still be found liable in court if they were negligent.
Columbia Truck Accident Lawyers at Chappell, Smith & Arden Advocate for Victims of Negligence
At Chappell, Smith & Arden, we have extensive experience investigating trucking accidents to get answers for our clients and hold the responsible parties accountable. To learn more about how we can help you, contact an experienced Columbia truck accident lawyer today at 803-929-3600, or contact us online. We offer free consultations at our six offices conveniently located across South Carolina. We represent victims of trucking accidents throughout South Carolina, including Columbia, Alken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, and Summerville.