When commercial truckers don’t follow national or state regulations to maintain safe roads, the results can be injuries caused by an accident.
Commercial trucking regulations are put in place to prevent accidents from occurring. Even with these regulations in place, 4,136 people died as a result of large truck crashes in 2018. 16% of those deaths were truck occupants, while 67% were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles. 15% were pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists. Since 2009, fatalities from truck accidents have risen approximately 50% in the United States.
Without any regulations, these numbers would be much higher. But what are these regulations, and how do they help to prevent accidents from occurring more frequently?
What regulations do truckers need to follow?
There are many regulations that truck drivers have to follow, including a health checkup before they’re allowed to get behind the wheel, license requirements, and more. Not everyone is eligible to be a truck driver. Here are four of the most important regulations, and the regulations that when broken—often lead to accidents.
Size and Weight Restrictions
Federal law states that the maximum gross vehicle weight is limited to 80,000 pounds, 20,000 pounds on a single axle and 34,000 pounds on a tandem axle group. Federal law also states that the maximum width limit for commercial motor vehicles is 102 inches. When it comes to length, the requirements differ based on the type of truck that’s being driven. Truck Tractor-Semitrailer Combination vehicles, AKA the standard commercial trucks you would see on the highway, have a maximum allowed length of 48 feet.
A Truck Tractor-Semitrailer-Trailer Combination vehicle (AKA a commercial vehicle with multiple attached trailers) has a length maximum of 28.5 feet per attached trailer with no overall length limit.
In Florida, trucks with a width greater than 96 inches may be restricted to public roads. Trucks may not exceed 13 feet 6 inches tall, and trucks may only carry two trailers up to 75 feet long in total.
Time Restrictions to Prevent Drowsy Driving
The time restrictions for commercial truck drivers are very specific, if not well enforced by trucking companies. There are three different time regulations you must follow as a commercial trucker:
- 14-hour driving window
- 11-hour driving limit
- 60-hour/7-day and 70-hour/8-day limits
The 14-hour driving window states that you are allowed a period of 14 consecutive hours on duty in which you can drive up to 11 hours after being off duty for 10 consecutive hours. You may only drive 11 hours within that 14-hour period. Even if you do not drive the full 11 hours, you cannot continue to drive after your 14-hour period is up.
Once you have reached your 11-hour driving limit for the day, you are required to be off duty for 10 consecutive hours before driving your truck again. A thirty minute rest break is also required if the driver has driven for more than 8 consecutive hours since their last off-duty period to prevent driver fatigue.
The 60-hour/7-day and 70-hour/8-day rules are not a weekly limit, but instead a floating limit during each 7 or 8 day period. The oldest day drops off and a new day is picked up at the end. For example, Monday through Sunday is one 7 day period, but so is Tuesday through Monday and so on. These rules state that you must not work more than 60 hours in any given 7 day period or more than 70 hours in any given 8 day period.
Alcohol and Drug Testing
Drug and alcohol tests are required pre-employment and post-accident. Post-accident drug tests are required if there is human fatality, bodily injury with immediate medical treatment away from the scene, or disabling damage to any motor vehicle requiring tow away. A drug test is only required in these circumstances if a citation is issued to the commercial vehicle driver. If a citation is not issued, a drug test is not required.
Drug tests must also be completed randomly throughout the year. A trucking company is required to implement a random testing program of two or more of their employees in random selection each year. Drivers are also required to be tested if there is reasonable suspicion that they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The use of mobile phones by commercial vehicle operates is strictly prohibited. A driver is not allowed to hold their cell phone, unsafely reach for it, or press multiple buttons. It may be used in hands free mode, using one-button touch features, an earpiece, or speakerphone. If a driver is caught using their cell phone or texting while operating their commercial vehicle, they could face civil penalties of up to $2,750. Additionally, they can face the consequence of having their commercial trucking license disqualified.
Why are these laws necessary?
Commercial motor vehicle regulations exist to keep both drivers, trucking companies, and other drivers on the road safe at all times. Large commercial vehicles are dangerous and must be driven with utmost care. Any deviance away from safe driving can cause a potentially fatal accident to occur.
Who has to follow these regulations?
These federal regulations must be followed by all interstate and intrastate drivers. Interstate drivers are drivers who transport goods out of the state. Intrastate drivers don’t leave their state. Intrastate drivers are also required to adhere to the state’s trucking regulations, which are often similar to federal law. In Florida, most laws are the same. However, Florida does require a DOT physical exam before drivers can get behind the wheel.
Common Regulations That are Broken
The most common trucking regulations that are broken include:
- service hour limits
- fraudulent logbooks
- traffic violations
- improper vehicle maintenance
- the use of drugs and alcohol
To break service hour regulations, trucking companies must also fake their log books, stating that drivers aren’t driving over the legal allowed amount. Drivers may also be responsible for faking log books. Drivers are often pressured to drive more than the legal amount, leading to driver fatigue.
What happens when regulations aren’t followed?
If trucking regulations aren’t followed, an accident could occur. Commercial truck accidents can be serious. They can inflict severe injuries such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury or death onto victims of these accidents. When a driver drives fatigued, distracted, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, their mind is cloudy and unable to focus on the road ahead of them, potentially causing an accident.
Injured in a truck accident? Contact our personal injury team today.
If you or someone you love has been injured because of a commercial truck driver’s negligence, please contact our talented truck accident attorneys here at The Eberst Law Firm. We’re ready and willing to help you get the compensation that you need for your damages. For more information or a free case evaluation, please contact us online or by using our chat box. You can also call us at 352-269-0017.