Trucking Accident Laws & Regulations
Overview of Federal Trucking Regulations
Federal Law provides rules and regulations for truck drivers and trucking companies. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (49 C.F.R. §§ 350-399) govern all vehicles engaged in interstate traffic.
49 C.F.R. § 382 – Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing
This regulation discussed programs that should be established by trucking companies to prevent accidents and injuries resulting from impairment because of the use of alcohol or drugs by commercial vehicle drivers.
Drivers with a commercial drivers license (CDL) under Section 383 must be tested for drugs and or alcohol if they drive a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, has a gross vehicle range of over 26,000 pounds, is designed to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or is used to carry hazardous materials.
49 C.F.R. § 383 – Commercial Driver’s License Standards; Requirements and Penalties
By requiring drivers of certain vehicles to obtain a commercial drivers license (CDL), this provision aims to reduce or prevent truck accidents. Truck drivers must be educated and understand procedures that ensure safe operation of vehicles and be informed about the negative effects of driving when tired, with poor eyesight, alcohol or drug use and improper use of the tractor trailr’s lights, horns, mirror, brakes and other emergency equipment.
49 C.F.R. § 391 – Qualification of Drivers
Truck drivers must be at least 21, speak English, be physically capable of safely operating a truck, have a valid CDL and must not have been disqualified for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, committing a felony, leaving the scene of an accident, refusing to take an alcohol test or any valid other reason.
49 C.F.R. § 392 – Driving of Commercial Motor Vehicles
Drivers must not drive while sick, fatigued, and may not use illegal drugs. Drivers must obey traffic laws, load cargo safely, perform inspections and drive cautiously in hazardous conditions. Drivers must be able to stop the vehicle before reaching railroad tracks, and must stop when carrying hazardous materials.
49 C.F.R. § 393 – Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation
Trucks may not be driven unless regulations with respect to lighting devices and reflectors, brakes, brake performance, tires, emergency equipment, protection against shifting or falling cargo, front-end structure, frames, doors, hood, seats, bumpers, wheels and steering wheel systems.
49 C.F.R. § 395 – Hours of Service of Drivers
A truck driver legally cannot drive 10 hours following 8 straight hours off duty or for any period after having been on duty 15 hours following 8 consecutive hours off duty. A motor carrier cannot require a driver to drive for any period after having been on duty 60 hours in any 7 consecutive days. Further, a driver cannot drive if he has been on duty 70 hours in any period of 8 consecutive days if the motor carrier operates trucks every day of the week.
49 C.F.R. § 396 – Inspection, Repair and Maintenance
The trucking company is responsible for ensuring that all parts are in proper working condition and must maintain and keep repair and inspection records. A driver is not permitted to operate a vehicle that is likely to break down or cause an accident. Drivers must inspect their trucks at the start of each day and report any defects.
49 C.F.R. § 397 – Transportation of Hazardous Materials
A driver of a commercial motor vehicle that is carrying explosives cannot leave the vehicle unattended. There are also restrictions about where a driver carrying explosive materials can park. Smoking is not allowed within 25 feet of a truck containing explosives or flammable materials.