Commercial Truck Laws
Driving a large truck is an enormous responsibility. These vehicles can weigh 20-30,000 pounds without cargo, and the injuries they cause can be devastating. In 2017, more than 4,700 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks — a 9% increase from 2016. More than 70% of these victims were occupants of other vehicles, not trucks.
Because of the tremendous damage trucks can inflict, there are many laws in place to make them safer for everyone on the road. These regulations are designed to make sure that truck drivers are adequately trained, sober, clear-headed, and not carrying too much weight.
Here is a rundown of some of the country’s most notable commercial trucking laws. If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, regardless of whether or not you think the truck driver broke one of these laws, you should speak with an attorney immediately to see if you are owed compensation.
Commercial Driver’s License
To even drive a large commercial truck, first you need a commercial driver’s license, or CDL. To obtain a Class A CDL, which allows someone to drive several different types of trucks and tractor-trailers, they have to complete at least 160 hours of training. Accumulating these hours and passing the test can take anywhere from a few weeks to six months, but on average it will take around two months.
CDLs are valid for 5-8 years depending on the state. Some states also require an annual physical exam to make sure a driver is healthy enough to operate a commercial vehicle.
If a truck driver doesn’t have a CDL, or if their CDL is expired, they and their trucking company could be held liable for an accident in which they were involved — especially if they caused the crash.
The numerous weigh stations dotting America’s highways originally were for collecting taxes, but now they weigh trucks to make sure they’re not overloaded. A truck that’s carrying more cargo than it should be runs the risk of damaging roads, or worse, tipping over. State troopers and Department of Transportation officials also make sure cargo is properly loaded and contained, to reduce the risk of anything falling or flying off the truck.
Hours of Service
Most truckers are paid per mile, which means the more ground they cover, the more money they make. This can cause problems not only when it comes to their speed, but their hours, which can be much longer than a typical 9-5. Some studies suggest that driving drowsy is as dangerous as driving drunk.
For this reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has instituted several rules concerning trucking hours. For instance, truckers can only drive 11 hours in a 14-hour period, and this after ten hours of rest. They also can’t drive more than 60 hours in a seven-day period, or more than 70 hours in an eight-day period. If they hit the 70-hour mark, they must then rest for at least 34 consecutive hours. Additionally, drivers are required to take a half-hour break during the first eight hours of their shift.
Ideally, these rules would keep every driver fresh and alert on the road at all times. Unfortunately, some drivers violate these guidelines in order to rack up mileage and boost their income. When they do so, they open themselves up to a lawsuit in the event of a crash.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
It probably goes without saying that truck drivers are not allowed to do their job while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They are subject to a drug screening before being granted employment as a commercial truck driver, and random drug tests each year by their employer, as ordered by the FMCSA. Truckers will also be tested for drugs and alcohol after a crash.
Contact a Truck Accident Lawyer
When truckers or trucking companies violate these laws, tragedies can occur. If the unthinkable has happened, and you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident, contact Morgan & Morgan. We may be able to help you recover compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages.
Across all practice areas, we have recovered over $9 billion for our clients. As America’s largest personal injury law firm, we have the stature and experience to take on big insurance companies and win. Best of all, it costs nothing up front to hire us, and we get paid only if we successfully resolve your case.
These lawsuits are time-sensitive, so don’t wait. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.