State and Federal Trucking Regulations

Trucking companies and their employers are required to follow federal and state regulations to keep roadways safe. When a company violates these laws and an accident occurs, they may be held accountable for any resulting injuries. While federal trucking regulations can be complex and confusing, the attorneys at Block O'Toole & Murphy have experience evaluating both federal and state laws, and have a thorough understanding of how these regulations can work to strengthen your claim.

If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident, our attorneys may be able to examine the details of your claim to determine if federal trucking laws were violated, as this may provide you with legal recourse. Call 212-736-5300 or fill out our case review form to find out if you can bring a lawsuit.

Truck Accident Laws

Federal trucking laws can be found in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which govern all vehicles engaged in interstate traffic. The following are among the provisions outlined by federal trucking laws:

Commercial Driver's License Requirements and Penalties

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has specific requirements for who can operate a large commercial truck. At a minimum, drivers must be 21 years old and have a valid commercial driver's license. They must also speak English and be physically capable of driving a large truck. Those who have operated a vehicle while under the influence, left the scene of an accident, committed a felony or refused a drug test may be disqualified from operating a commercial truck.

Hours of Service Regulations

Truck driver fatigue is a common factor in crashes involving large commercial vehicles. According to a study by the FMCSA, 13 percent of commercial drivers involved in accidents were fatigued at the time of the crash. In another study, three out of four commercial drivers reported experiencing driving errors as a result of drowsiness.

Truckers are often pressured to drive long hours in order to meet strict deadlines and maximize profits. To discourage this dangerous behavior, the FMCSA has set limits on drivers' hours behind the wheel. A truck driver may work up to 11 hours within a 14-hour period, as long as they were off-duty for 10 consecutive hours before that period. Drivers may not drive after working 60 hours during the previous seven days or 70 hours during the previous eight days.

It should be noted that these regulations apply to all time spent on duty, not just driving hours. On-duty time includes:

  • Time spent loading or unloading the vehicle
  • Time spent on vehicle inspections
  • Time spent repairing the vehicle
  • All non-driving time spent in the vehicle, except rest in the sleeper
  • Time performing any compensated work

Trucking Equipment and Maintenance

The FMCSA passed additional regulations in 2017 to ensure compliance with the hours-of-service regulations discussed above. As a result, truck drivers must record their hours worked using a certified electronic logging device (ELD).

Truck drivers and their employers are also subject to frequent inspections of their trucks and other equipment to ensure they are fit for the road. Any trucks that are deemed unsafe must undergo repairs before returning to the road.

Weight Requirements

While driving on New York's highways, you have likely noticed frequent weight stations for large trucks. These stations are important because an overweight truck can be difficult to maneuver, making it hazardous to other motorists. The Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration is responsible for regulating how much a truck may weigh.

The maximum weight of a truck and its cargo depends on the number of axles. More axles may carry more weight, but the maximum weight of any commercial truck may not exceed 80,000 pounds. With the average car weighing about 4,000 pounds, it is apparent how large trucks can cause devastating injuries and death in collisions with smaller vehicles.

Hazardous Materials

Trucks that carry flammable, corrosive or potentially explosive materials are subject to additional regulation by the FMCSA. Generally, the driver of a commercial vehicle that is carrying explosive materials may not leave the truck unattended. There are also restrictions on where these drivers can park, and smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of these vehicles.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Many industries use drug and alcohol testing to ensure employees are following the law and acting safely. Commercial trucking is no exception. Drivers are tested for drugs and alcohol:

  • At random
  • Before starting work at a new trucking company
  • After an accident resulting in serious injury or death
  • And in specific scenarios outlined in FMCSA regulations

Drug tests must check for marijuana, cocaine, opiates and other controlled substances.

State vs. Federal Regulations

In addition to federal regulations governing interstate travel, individual states have their own regulations that apply to trucking operations within state borders. For the most part, New York state has adopted federal regulations. However, there are some specific exceptions. New York law outlines additional penalties for some violations, including driving a truck that has been taken out of service.

In many cases involving collisions with large trucks, both state and federal regulations play a significant role. When pursuing a lawsuit, it is critical to work with attorneys who are familiar with both federal trucking regulations and the ways they differ from New York's specific trucking laws.

An Experienced Team Can Help

This page provides a general overview of key trucking regulations, but the laws themselves are highly complex and constantly evolving. If you have questions about trucking laws as they relate to a personal injury claim, it is best to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after the accident. Trucking companies and the insurance companies that help defend them have extensive experience and vast resources to handle accident claims involving their drivers. It is essential that trucking accident victims seek out their own legal counsel to level the playing field.

At Block O'Toole & Murphy, we have a history of success in litigating vehicle accident claims, including truck accidents. To find out how you can pursue a personal injury lawsuit, call 212-736-5300 to receive a free case review from one of our attorneys.

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