Considering the size, weight, and relative velocity of large trucks and 18-wheelers, it is not surprising that the trucking industry is held to a stricter minimum regarding safety rules. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issues a list of regulations that truck drivers and trucking companies must follow and enforce; if a truck driver or company fails to comply with these regulations and an accident occurs, the driver and company may be considered liable for any resulting damages.
The book of FMCSA regulations is hundreds of pages long, but some of the minimum requirements for trucking safety are as follows:
- Driver qualifications: According to the FMCSA, truck drivers must be over the age of 21 and have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). However, these are not necessarily the only qualifications a driver needs to have. Many trucking companies require drivers to attend additional training to operate their vehicles or certain types of vehicles; additionally, if a trucking company hires a driver with a record of poor-driving, the company may be liable for poor hiring practices resulting in dangerous conditions for others on the road.
- Hours of service regulations: Violating hours of service rules is thought to be one of the primary causes of trucking accidents. Truck drivers often work long shifts, spending days at a time on the road. However, after driving for a certain amount of time, drivers are required to stop and take a rest break. This prevents drivers from operating a massive vehicle while fatigued and not fully aware of their surroundings or obstacles in the road. For example, property-carrying drivers may drive for a maximum of 11 hours at a time after they have received a consecutive 10 hours off duty. Additionally, drivers must stop to take a 30-minute rest break after driving for a period of 8 hours.
- Drug and alcohol testing: Truck drivers are required to undergo both random and scheduled testing to determine drug or alcohol use. It is illegal to operate a big-rig while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While this is thankfully not a common problem in the trucking industry, the consequences when it does occur can be catastrophic. Passenger vehicle drivers and tractor-trailer drivers alike should never operate their vehicle while under the influence of any substance which could impair or otherwise affect their driving.
- Equipment safety: Truck drivers are required to check the state of their equipment before, during, and after a trip. Additionally, trucking companies are required to replace broken or defective parts and ensure that the vehicles their drivers operate are reasonably safe. Failing to follow equipment safety guidelines can result in catastrophic accidents caused by mechanical failures such as tire tread separation, bad brakes, and more.
- Driving rules: Tractor-trailer drivers are required to follow the same rules of the road of any standard passenger vehicle driver. However, while the same traffic rules apply, a large truck will likely need to take extra precautions to abide by the same rules. For example, a car might be able to safely pass through a yellow light, while a large truck will likely need to take its time to slow down and come to a complete stop. So while the same driving rules apply, large trucks will likely need to use alternate methods to abide by those rules.
- Loading requirements: The way a truck is loaded plays a big role in its safe motion on the road. A truck that is too heavy or with cargo that is improperly secured or loaded may be unable to come to a fast enough stop or may tip over when taking a turn. Inspection stations are set up along the highway to double check that FMCSA loading requirements are met.
If you or a loved one were injured in a trucking accident, reach out to a truck accident attorney to learn whether FMCSA minimum safety violations may have occurred.