Understanding Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
Commercial trucks on our roadways have the potential to be extremely dangerous. Because of this, the U.S. government has developed and continues to promote a set of rules that specifically apply to interstate commercial truck drivers and the companies that employ them. Almost any accident involving a commercial truck is likely to involve violation of these rules, collectively called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). The personal injury attorneys at our Lakeland law firm serving Central Florida and Polk County, including Bartow, Winter Haven, and Haines City, are experts in trucking law, and we have represented numerous victims of accidents resulting from violation of the FMCSR. If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident with a commercial truck, contact one of our experienced attorneys today.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Its primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries (such as spine injuries). The administration focuses on ensuring safety in motor carrier operations through:
- Strong enforcement of safety regulations
- Targeting high-risk carriers and commercial motor vehicle drivers
- Improving safety information systems and commercial motor vehicle technologies
- Strengthening commercial motor vehicle equipment and operating standards
- Increasing safety awareness
This mission to protect public safety is carried out largely through the enforcement of the FMCSR. Unfortunately, it is common for trucking companies and the drivers they employ to routinely ignore or blatantly violate the safety provisions of the FMCSR.
Common Rule Violations
Trucking accidents are commonly caused by violation of one or more FMCSR. A few of the most relevant regulations summarize:
- Trucking companies are required to be knowledgeable about and comply with trucking regulations, and they must teach these regulations to every driver and employee.
- Truck drivers must be over 21, pass a test and physical exam related to their ability to safely operate a large truck, read and speak English, and have a valid commercial motor vehicle operator’s license issued by only one state or jurisdiction.
- A truck driver is automatically disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle if they are caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This includes driving with an alcohol concentration of 0.04% or more, or consuming any alcohol within four hours before driving. A motor carrier cannot permit a driver who is disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
- Trucking companies should not encourage drivers to violate regulations. Examples include paying truck drivers by the mile, and not paying for inspections, required rest time, or time out of service due to safety concerns.
- Trucking companies should monitor driver logs and must not permit or require drivers to exceed Hours of Service (HOS) rules. An employer can be held responsible if a driver falsifies service time, rest time, inspections, or other data.
- Drivers must use extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle in hazardous conditions that adversely affect visibility or traction (such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke) and must reduce speed when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, drivers must discontinue operation of the vehicle.
In short, these regulations are in place to protect the public from drivers who are fatigued, impaired, unqualified, or driving in an unsafe manner, and to discourage employers from allowing or ignoring these behaviors.
Contact an Expert in Trucking Law
When FMCSA regulations are violated and a member of the public is injured or killed as a result, only a skillful attorney with expert knowledge in trucking law can ensure fair compensation. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.