Commercial Trucking Regulations: Understanding the Obligations of Trucking Companies
Commercial trucks and tractor-trailers are the largest and most dangerous vehicles on public roads. Weighing as much as 80,000 pounds, slow to stop, and difficult to maneuver, commercial vehicles pose increased risks of devastating accidents, as well as catastrophic injuries or death to those involved. Because commercial trucking is such a significant public safety concern, the federal government, through agencies such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), enforces a number of important trucking regulations designed to reduce these risks.
While there are numerous trucking regulations in place, statistics show that major truck accidents still happen all the time, often with tragic results. Through investigations into these wrecks, experts and advocates, including lawyers like those at Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin who represent truck accident victims in personal injury or wrongful death cases, commonly find that many are caused by trucking companies and employees who fail to abide applicable regulations.
Important Trucking Regulations & Violations
Our legal team knows that violations of trucking regulations puts everyone at risk and that the trucking companies who commit them fail not only to abide by the law but also to meet their duty of care to take reasonable steps that the ensure safety of others. This is why it becomes crucially important to understand the many regulations that apply to commercial trucking, how to identify them when conducting investigations, and how to highlight those failures in order to help victims and families hold negligent trucking companies accountable.
Below, we explain some of the most important safety regulations that apply to the trucking industry:
- Vehicle Maintenance – Commercial trucks are massive machines comprised of many complex and moving components. Should those components fall into disrepair, trucks and tractor-trailers can turn into ticking time bombs on the road. As such, trucking companies are required by law to regularly inspect and adequately maintain their fleet. Should they fail to do so, unaddressed hazards (such as faulty brakes or aging tires) can cause preventable accidents, or prevent truck drivers from avoiding otherwise avoidable collisions.
- Employee Oversight – Trucking companies are ultimately responsible for their employees, especially their truck drivers. In terms of hiring and retaining truck drivers, trucking operators have a legal obligation, as well as specific rules with which they must comply, to ensure those drivers are properly licensed, trained, and fit for duty. This can include everything from evaluating a potential employee’s driving history, health certifications, and drug and alcohol testing during the initial hiring phase, and taking appropriate steps to address any unreasonable hazards created by drivers while they are employed. When trucking companies negligently hire or retain unfit truckers, they can be held liable for accidents those drivers cause.
- Hours-of-Service Rules – Numerous studies have shown that driving while fatigued can be just as dangerous as driving drunk. Although such a driver would be a hazard in any vehicle they operate, they are most concerning if they are behind the wheel of a commercial truck. In order to reduce risks posed by tired truckers, the federal government enforces strict Hours-of-Service rules which outline when and for how long a driver can be on duty and behind the wheel, when they should take rest breaks, and how long they need to rest following a week of driving. Compliance with HOS rules is critical to public safety, and any violations can increase accident risks and subject truckers and trucking companies to liability when victims are harmed.
- Cargo Rules – The primary function of commercial trucks and tractor-trailers is to transport goods where they need to go, which is why there are many regulations that apply specifically to cargo. This includes rules for proper securement of cargo (both within boxed trucks and open-cargo trucks) in order to reduce accident risks created by shifting cargo or falling cargo that can create roadway hazards. It also concerns weight restrictions for specific types of trucks, which trucking companies may violate to the detriment of vehicle stability and safety in order to increase loads and maximize profits, and regulations that apply to specific types of cargo, including anything from loose fruit and wood logs to dangerous or hazardous materials.
Protecting Your Rights After a Truck Accident
Regulatory violations are a clear and inexcusable breach of duty, which is why our legal team at Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin focuses on applicable trucking regulations and potential violations, among other factors, when investigating trucking accidents. By illustrating how trucking companies failed to abide by the law and uphold their legal duty, we help clients pursue accountability for their accidents, and the financial compensation they need to cover damages and rebuild their lives.
If you or someone you love has been harmed in an accident involving a commercial truck or tractor-trailer anywhere in West Palm Beach or the state of Florida, our award-winning personal injury lawyers are available to review your case and discuss how we can guide you through the process ahead. Contact us for a free and confidential case evaluation.