The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
The FMCSA is a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and was established in 2000. The mission of the Administration is to prevent commercial motor vehicle accidents, injuries, and fatalities. This is achieved in several ways, including by creating FMCSA regulations that apply to motor carriers (trucking and bussing companies), commercial vehicle drivers, and other product and service providers in the U.S. trucking industry. The FMCSA also is responsible for enforcing DOT requirements for trucks, trucking companies, and truck drivers.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
The FMCSA regulates:
- Commercial Driver’s Licenses: The FMCSA develops the testing and licensure standards for commercial motor vehicle drivers, though it does not issue licenses. States issue CDLs. It is illegal to operate a commercial vehicle without a CDL. The Administration also dictates the endorsement requirements for truckers to operate certain vehicles or carry certain cargo.
- Passengers: The FMCSA dictates the training and licensing requirements for drivers who can carry passengers. It also promulgates many other Passenger Carrier Regulations that motor carriers (bus companies) must follow.
- Insurance Coverage: The FMCSA dictates how much insurance truck owners and drivers must carry.
- Hours of Service Regulations: There are strict DOT regulations for truck drivers regarding how long they can operate a truck during specific periods. There is a 14-hour “driving window,” during which a trucker can operate a vehicle for up to 11 hours after having 10 or more hours off duty consecutively. There also is a 60 hours per 7 days or 70 hours per 8 days limit.
- Truck Inspections: DOT rules and regulations require inspections by the driver at specific times and full inspections of the vehicle every 12 months by a qualified inspector. Drivers must complete a written post-trip inspection report at the end of each driving day. In this report, the driver notes any defects or deficiencies that could affect the safe operation of the truck. In some circumstances, truckers also must perform pre-trip inspections.
- Maximum Truck Size and Weight: The FMCSA dictates how long, tall, and wide commercial trucks and their cargo can be. States can provide for stricter size limits and regulate when trucks can receive oversize permits. The FMCSA also provides gross vehicle weight rating limits for roads and bridges.
- Hazmat Labels and Warnings: Federal law defines which materials are considered hazardous materials, and the FMCSA determines the labels and warnings trucks must bear when carrying Hazmat.
- Cargo Securement: Federal trucking regulations include rules on how to secure cargo appropriately to ensure it cannot come loose during a trip.
- Impairment Limits: CDL holders have a different alcohol limit than private motorists. When a truck driver is operating a commercial vehicle, the FMCSA dictates a 0.04% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit. The FMCSA prohibits the use of controlled substances. There also are strict regulations for drivers regarding when their license is suspended for drug or alcohol impairment.
- Drug and Alcohol Testing: DOT-required drug tests occur randomly and before a trucker can be hired. All motor carrier employers are required to implement drug and alcohol testing programs, which include pre-employment testing, post-accident testing, random testing, reasonable suspicion testing, return to duty testing, and follow up testing.
- Recordkeeping: Federal motor carrier regulations include the types of records trucking companies and truck drivers must create and how long they must keep them.
This is not an exhaustive list of federal motor carrier safety regulations. When you work with a Texas truck accident lawyer at Begum Law Group, we will discuss with you the regulations that are relevant to your case and how we will look into potential violations.
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Consequences of Violating Federal Trucking Regulations
There are several possible consequences when a FMCSA regulation violation occurs:
- Civil Fines: Motor carriers are fines for regulatory violations.
- License Suspension/Revocation: Truckers who violate one or more FMCSA regulations can have their license suspended or permanently revoked.
- Civil Liability: When a federal trucking regulation violation is linked to a serious or fatal truck accident, evidence of the violation can help establish the truck driver or trucking company’s liability.
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Investigating DOT Compliance After a Truck Accident
Following a trucking accident, we will thorough investigate whether the truck driver or trucking company violated one or more FMCSA regulations by:
- Having the truck independently inspected.
- Obtaining a copy of the data from the truck’s “black box.”
- Obtaining a copy of the trucking company’s annual inspection records.
- Obtaining a copy of the trucking company’s maintenance and repair records.
- Obtaining a copy of the truck driver’s inspection reports.
- Obtaining a copy of the truck driver’s electronic or written logbook.
- Obtaining a copy of the truck driver’s employment record.
- Reviewing the trucking company’s business-wide hiring records.
- Obtaining a copy of the truck driver’s drug test records.
- Determining the truck driver’s education, training, and licensure.
- Investigating the truck driver’s professional and personal driving record.
- Determining if the truck driver has a criminal record.
- Reviewing the trucking company’s history of trucking regulations violations.
- Reviewing the trucking company’s Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) score.