The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), through the Department of Transportation (DOT) sets federal laws and regulations for truck drivers. The focus of these DOT truck regulations is to improve safety on the roads and reduce the number of injuries and fatalities involving commercial vehicles. So, when there is a truck accident, DOT trucking laws will often impact the investigation and the outcome.
DOT Truck Regulations
The DOT has a number of federal trucking regulations that all commercial truck drivers and trucking companies must follow, including regulations regarding:
- pre-employment drug and alcohol testing
- passenger carriage
- insurance and registration fees
- training requirements
- driver qualifications
- employee safety and health
- truck inspections, repair and maintenance
- hazardous material transport
- distracted driving
- hours of service
In addition, the DOT also sets the standards for commercial driver licensing and new trucking company registration. A Bucks County truck accident lawyer from Cordisco & Saile LLC can review all DOT regulations and evaluate whether the driver or trucking company was violating them at the time of the accident.
What are hours of service violations?
Of the many DOT truck regulations, some of the most important regulations are those regarding hours of service, or the amount of time drivers can legally put in on the road. The DOT designed these rules to ensure drivers are rested, focused, and in optimal condition when behind the wheel. Because of the importance of truck driver alertness, the DOT takes these regulations (and violations) very seriously.
Hours of service regulations state:
- Drivers can operate their trucks for a maximum of 11 hours, but only after they have had a consecutive 10 hours of off-duty time. These numbers decrease to 10 and eight, respectively, if the driver is transporting passengers.
- Drivers may not operate their trucks after the 14th consecutive hour of being on duty, including rest breaks. This increases to the 15th hour if passengers are present, presumably because there will (most likely) be more than one driver.
- Drivers may not drive more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days.
- If it has been longer than eight hours since a driver was last off duty, he or she may not drive until he or she has taken a rest period of at least 30 minutes.
As a part of hours of service regulations, the DOT requires drivers to log their time in an official logbook. Most trucks are equipped with an electronic logging device (ELD), which will keep track of the driver’s on-the-road time automatically and ensure complete accuracy.
Note: A new FMCSA regulation requires all trucks to have an ELD installed by December 2017.
Other Common DOT Regulation Violations and How They Affect My Case
Unfortunately, despite the rigorous DOT truck regulations and safety laws, truck accidents still happen far too often. In fact, according to data from the FMCSA, there were more than 340,000 large truck wrecks in 2013 alone.
A number of regulations apply to drivers of commercial vehicles. Not all will affect an accident claim, but a few will. An example would be drug and alcohol testing. Although there are numerous regulations, one of the key factors in an accident claim might be previous results indicating a problem.
Let us say a random workplace test had indicated the driver was under the influence, yet the company did not take any measures to address the situation.
If that same driver gets behind the wheel of a truck and ends up crashing and also fails a field sobriety test at the scene of the accident, an investigation might find that the employer violated federal regulations if the employer failed to take appropriate measures to keep that driver off the road.
Another federal DOT law and regulation pertains to special training requirements. For instance, Longer Combination Vehicle (LCV) drivers are those who operate tractor-trailers that weigh 80,000 pounds or more. These drivers must undergo training and pass strict tests to become an LCV driver.
If the company did not check if the driver had received proper training (or did not offer training) and the driver hit you or your loved one, you may be able to find the company liable for your accident.
Distracted driving is also a concern for all types of vehicles that share the road. If an investigation finds that the truck driver was using a phone for any reason, you may be able to file a claim or lawsuit against the trucking company.
If the truck driver or trucking company violated a DOT regulation, the Department likely issued a citation, which you can use as evidence in your truck accident case.
How do I file a claim against the trucking company?
Victims who were injured or suffered damage from a truck accident should strongly consider contacting a Bucks County truck accident lawyer. With all of the complex issues that can arise, it is beneficial to have the help of an attorney who is knowledgeable in truck accident cases.
At Cordisco & Saile LLC, we can help you file a claim, determine which parties are liable, and identify which federal DOT laws or regulations the driver or company violated. If the driver or trucking company was negligent or violating DOT truck regulations at the time of your accident, we can help you recover damages for your truck accident injuries.
Going up against a trucking company is something no one should attempt alone. We will stand by you, help gather evidence, manage all communication with the trucking company’s adjusters and lawyers, negotiate a settlement, and take your case to court if necessary.
Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.