Truck drivers and trucking companies are required to comply with a complex set of state and federal rules and regulations that govern all aspects of their operations. The goal is to ensure safe operation of trucks to prevent catastrophic injuries.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces regulations through compliance reviews, roadside inspections, complaint investigations, audits of trucking terminals, and other investigations. Violations may result in fines and, federal inspectors may order trucks or truck drivers off the road for serious or repeated violations.
Commercial truck drivers and trucking companies have no excuse for not knowing what is required of them. Yet, the FMCSA says in Fiscal Year 2014 it closed 5,085 “enforcement cases” and collected $36.2 million in fines.
If a truck driver or a trucking company has violated one or more established rules or regulations, it is solid evidence of negligence after a collision. This evidence can support a personal injury case brought to obtain compensation for medical expenses and other losses for the victim of an accident caused by a truck driver.
The Scope of FMCSA Truck Driving Regulations
FMCSA regulations for commercial trucks including tractor-trailers, tanker trucks and other commercial vehicles address such topics as:
- Driver qualifications. Certain standards and expectations must be met before a driver can operate a semi-truck. The driver must be at least 21 years old, hold a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL), and speak and understand conversational English.
- Operation of a commercial vehicle. Commercial truck drivers must comply with rules pertaining to prohibitions of alcohol and drug use and periodic physical examinations with specific physical requirements.
- Vehicle inspection, repair and maintenance. Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring the safe operation of all parts, accessories and systems on the vehicles they put on our nations’ highways.
- Minimum insurance coverage. Trucking companies and truck drivers are required to carry higher amounts of liability insurance than drivers of passenger cars because of the serious harm a heavy truck can cause.
FMCSA Truck Driving Rules Violation
As of 2013, there were 8,126,007 single-unit commercial trucks and 2,471,349 tractor-trailers registered in the United States, according to the FMCSA. As of December 2014, there were 532,024 interstate motor carriers and intrastate hazardous material (HM) motor carriers operating in the United States.
They employed approximately 5.7 million licensed commercial drivers.
State and federal officials conducted 3.38 million roadside inspections in 2014. Violations lead to fines, and serious violations result in the issuance of vehicle or driver out-of-service orders. Violations must be corrected before the cited driver or vehicle can resume operations.
Top 5 Driver Violations of FMCSA Truck Drivers Rules
- No driver log or log not current. Every driver who operates a commercial motor vehicle is required to record his/her duty status – driving; on duty, not driving; off duty; in truck’s sleeper berth – for each 24-hour period, and trucking companies are required to ensure their drivers comply. An incomplete or inaccurate log may hide violations of driver Hours of Service regulations restricting time behind the wheel. The roadside inspection report cites violations in four additional categories or regulations pertaining to maintaining driver logs, including more than 36,800 described as “false report of driver’s record of duty status.”
- Driving beyond the 8-hour limit since the end of the last off-duty or sleeper period of at least 30 minutes. The FMCSA’s Hours of Service regulations were updated in 2011 to limit the number of hours a driver may work on a continuing basis to reduce the possibility of driver fatigue. Driver fatigue is a common contributor to truck accidents. The roadside inspection report also cites tens of thousands of violations each of HOS rules prohibiting driving beyond the 14-hour duty period (which may include non-driving work) and beyond the 11-hour limit per 14-hour duty period.
- Non-English-speaking driver. The FMCSA requires that a commercial driver can read and speak English well enough to converse with the general public, understand highway traffic signs and signals, respond to official inquiries, and make entries on reports and records.
- Speeding 6-10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Though a requirement to obey the law may seem obvious, FMCSA regulations specifically say every commercial motor vehicle (CMV) must be operated according to the laws, ordinances, and regulations of the jurisdiction in which it is being operated.
- Failing to wear a seat belt. FMCSA regulations also require drivers to wear seat belts, as does Texas law.
Top 5 Vehicle Violations of FMCSA Regulations According to Texas Truck Driving Laws
- Vehicle not having required operable lamps (lights). The FMCSA has specific requirements for lamps, reflective devices and associated equipment each type of commercial motor vehicle must have and provides diagrams to illustrate their proper position on each type of vehicle. A separate regulation requires them to be operable and unobscured at all times.
- Brakes out of adjustment. Faulty brakes are one of the most common vehicle-related truck accident causes. FMCSA regulations delineate specific brake adjustments to the fraction of the inch for nine clamp-type brake chambers and eight roto-chamber brake systems. The roadside inspection report cites violations in five additional categories of regulations regarding brakes in large trucks, including more than 80,000 citations for inoperative/defective brakes.
- Tire tread depth less than 2/32 of an inch. Tire failure, particularly a blowout, caused by worn tread can cause a truck driver to lose control of their vehicle and collide with a nearby vehicle, person or object.
- Other vehicle defects. Trucking carriers are required to inspect, maintain and repair all parts and accessories of the trucks that they put on the road. Trucks have many operating parts and systems. Part 393 of FMCSA regulations, which specify requirements for parts and accessories necessary for safe operation of CMVs, has more than 200 sections.
- Oil and/or grease leak. Carriers are required to ensure that each motor vehicle subject to its control is properly lubricated and free of oil and grease leaks.
Contact our South Texas truck accident attorneys to know more about the rules of truck drivers.
Violations of rules and regulations may be evidence of negligence after a truck accident. Truck drivers and/or their employing trucking companies may be held liable if their negligence contributes to a truck accident, including driver error or neglected maintenance of the truck, its parts and/or systems.
The attorneys at Herrman & Herrman, P.L.L.C., can help if you or a loved one has been injured in a commercial truck accident in Texas.
Records that show a pattern of violations at the trucking company involved in your crash, or an investigation that uncovers driver error or faulty vehicle maintenance, will support your claim for compensation.