Trucking Regulations & Commercial Trucking Accidents

The commercial trucking industry must abide by both federal and state regulations when it comes to loading and transporting goods and maintaining and operating large vehicles.

Fort Lauderdale truck Accident Attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm, recognize that failure to abide by these regulations may not only result in severe fines and other penalties, such negligence endangers innocent motorists forced to share the road.

According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), trucking accidents account for nearly 6 percent of all fatal crashes in Florida. We also have the third-highest number of fatal truck crashes in the U.S., just behind Texas and California – which both far exceed our population.

Not all truck accidents are caused by violation of regulations. However, when truck drivers and carriers sidestep the law, they are increasing the risk of a crash. The regulations exist in order to protect not only the truck drivers, but also those with whom they share the highway.

Federal Truck Regulations – Commercial Trucking Accidents

The agency that oversees the trucking industry at the federal level is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The primary source of its regulations is U.S. Code: Title 49. This chapter lists all regulation and laws governing the U.S. trucking industry. These guidelines cover:

  • Hours of Service (HOS). This is the provision that regulates how many hours in a given day or week truckers can work. Currently, the law allows truck drivers to work 11 hours in a day (with at least one 30-minute rest) and up to 70 hours in a week.
  • Driver Qualifications. FMCSA requires truckers maintain a medical certificate indicating they are fit to operate an interstate commercial motor vehicle. This requires truckers to undergo and pass physical examination and provide medical history.
  • Drug and Alcohol Testing. Every driver who possesses a commercial driver’s license (CDL) has to abide by federal drug and alcohol testing requirements. The law requires testing of drivers prior to employment, via random testing, post-accident, when there is reasonable suspicion and in the “return to duty” process. The test must screen for: Marijuana, cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, PCP and alcohol. A positive test result or refusal should result in a driver being pulled immediately from service.
  • Cell Phone Restrictions. Although state laws vary, FMCSA bars drivers from texting while operating a commercial vehicle. They are also barred from emailing, browsing the web, initiating phone calls or engaging in any other form electronic communication device while behind the wheel.
  • Securing Cargo Loads. If an 18-wheel commercial truck is fully loaded, it can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. If that load is not properly distributed within the vehicle – or if the vehicle is overloaded – it can lead to serious accidents. Federal regulations have specific securement rules that mandate tie downs and set weight limits depending on the number of axles.
  • Transportation of Hazardous Material. Trucks containing hazardous material could be especially dangerous in the event of a crash, so FMCSA requires truckers carry a placard that identifies the type of load. They must also be trained how to properly respond if there is a hazmat emergency.
  • Truck Maintenance. A truck driver could be the best in the world, but if his rig isn’t in good repair, the result could be catastrophic. Safety regulations in this regard cover everything from brake maintenance to working lamps to quality tires.

Violation of any one of these regulations could be grounds for harsh fines and penalties. If it results in injury, it could also be used as powerful evidence in plaintiff’s case.

Florida Trucking Regulations

In addition to federal rules, truck drivers who operate in Florida also must abide by Chapter 316 of Florida Statutes. This chapter provides the State Uniform Traffic Control laws that apply to all operators of motor vehicles.

With specific regard to commercial vehicles, the Florida Highway Patrol Office of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement is the governing authority. The basic requirements for operating a commercial vehicle in Florida are:

  • A valid and current tag and registration
  • A fuel decal from the Department of Highway Safety of Motor vehicles if the if there are more than three axles or if vehicle weight exceeds 26,000 pounds and the vehicle is being operated on the interstate
  • Correct weight and size
  • All parts in safe and working condition
  • Display a valid USDOT or Florida number

In order to win a truck accident case, victims have to show the truck driver and/or other parties were negligent and are therefore liable to compensate for resulting injuries. There are a number of ways to prove liability, but a violation of federal or state trucking laws can establish “negligence per se” which is automatic proof of negligence.

If you have been injured in a truck accident in Fort Lauderdale, we can help.

Contact the South Florida truck injury lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm, by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (888) ANSARA-8.