How Federal Regulations Impact Truck Accident Lawsuits
Commercial truck drivers are held to a much higher standard than other cars. So much so that the federal government regulates them. Since trucks must follow strict regulations, if they commit a federal trucking violation, it could be evidence of negligence in a car accident case.
Here’s more on how federal trucking regulations impact personal injury cases and common violations that could indicate negligence.
Federal Truck Regulations & Your Case
Negligence is the cornerstone of any personal injury claim — an individual has a duty of care, they breach that duty, and this breach causes an accident resulting in economic and non-economic damages.
In typical vehicle accidents, cars have a duty to follow traffic laws to avoid wrecks and keep everyone safe. When drivers fail to follow the rules and injure another driver in an accident, they could be negligent and responsible for the victim’s recovery.
The same is true for commercial trucks. However, truck drivers and their employers must follow additional regulations set by the federal government. All truck drivers must abide by these federal guidelines, including hours of service, loading limits, license requirements, and more.
Even if, for example, the driver’s drowsiness caused your accident, their employer could be negligent if they forced the trucker to drive beyond their hours-of-service limits. That’s why investigating whether a driver or their company violated a federal regulation could help you identify all the at-fault parties and prove their negligence.
Common Federal Trucking Violations
Like traffic laws, federal trucking regulations are meant to protect drivers and other individuals on the road. Despite these laws, truck drivers and their employers constantly cut corners to satisfy demand.
Here are the most common trucking violations and how they could point to negligence:
Hours of Service
The goal of hours-of-service regulations is to ensure that drivers receive adequate rest between long stretches of traveling. Just like an employer at an office can’t force their employees to work long periods without a break, truck drivers can’t drive longer than 14 consecutive hours without having ten straight hours off duty. However, drivers may travel up to two hours past the 14-hour limit if adverse weather conditions are present. Further, truck drivers must take a 30-minute break every 8-hour driving period.
Drivers or their employers sometimes ignore this 14-hour driving limit, which results in drowsy driving, slows truckers’ reaction time, and may lead them to fall asleep at the wheel. If a truck driver falls asleep while driving and crashes into you, the truck’s logbook may reveal an hours-of-service violation.
Improperly Secured Cargo
Commercial trucks carry various types of cargo, from tree logs to cement piping. If these items are not adequately secured, they could shift and move when a truck accelerates, brakes, or makes a wide turn.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration states that, as a general rule, cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on the truck by structures of adequate strength, dunnage bags (inflatable bags that go between cargo to prevent it from moving), or tie-downs. If cargo loaders fail to use tie-downs or secure cargo by other means properly, and it comes loose on a highway, they could be negligent.
Trucks have particular weight requirements due to their sheer size. Federal regulations state that trucks cannot exceed 80,000 pounds. The heavier a truck is, the harder it is to stop, making cargo more likely to shift or come loose while in transit.
Additionally, a crash with an 80,000-pound truck is devastating enough. Anything that exceeds that amount can inflict even more serious damage to multiple vehicles, not just yours.
Federal law requires truck drivers to record all driving activities on a long-haul trip. These logbooks contain a treasure trove of information that could benefit an accident claim. Truckers must log when they begin driving, the miles driven, how much time they’ve spent sleeping, and more.
This data may either be recorded by hand or monitored electronically. The data gathered from a logbook may indicate that the driver violated numerous trucking regulations that may have contributed to your accident. Further, any driver who falsifies these records is subject to criminal punishment.
Commercial Driver’s License
Due to the size of a big rig and the responsibility of driving one, drivers must obtain a commercial driver’s license before operating a truck. To apply for a commercial driver’s license, aspiring truckers must complete skills and knowledge tests to ensure everyone’s safety on public roads.
They must learn to perform wide turns on city streets, control trucks with heavy loads, give themselves enough distance to stop their 18-wheeler, and more. If a driver causes a serious accident and doesn’t have a required CDL, this could prove their negligence.
Periodic inspections are crucial to fix any equipment issues that could cause an accident and help to keep trucks on the road. These inspections must occur annually, and inspectors must know and be able to identify defective components on a big rig.
If an inspector discovers any issues with the truck, it must be reported immediately, and the trucking company must put together an action plan to fix it. If an accident occurs, you can check to see if the truck has received an inspection within the past year. If it hasn’t, and an equipment malfunction occurred, the trucking company or inspector could be liable.
Injured in a Truck Accident? Call the Law Giant
You shouldn’t have to pay the price for someone else’s negligence. All drivers must follow federal guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety. If they don’t, the Law Giant can subpoena logbooks, interview witnesses, and recruit expert witnesses to identify all liable parties. Contact our office today at (866) 435-5219 to schedule your free consultation with the Law Giant.