by HGD Staff
Every year, thousands of people are injured in accidents with semi-trucks throughout America. Many of these injuries are fatal, leaving families to suffer the loss of a loved one, as well as a drastic drop in family income. Trucking accident cases are different than auto accidents for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most distinct difference is the number of federal and state regulations that apply to the trucking industry. Among these federal rules, here are six particular rules that injured motorists should understand if involved in a collision with a commercial truck.
Hours of Service
Hours of service rules are much more complicated than they initially seem. Without oversimplifying them, the general principles work like this. Over-the-road interstate truck drivers must follow rules for how long they can drive and work in a given period of time. Unlike most people, truck drivers work 24/7, so their sleep schedules often get interrupted, and they may find themselves working all sorts of hours, day or night. The rules are slightly different depending on whether the vehicle is a cargo truck or passenger vehicle, like a bus. For most tractor-trailers, the rules are:
- 11-hour Rule: Drivers must not drive more than 11 hours within a work period.
- 14-hour Rule: A work period totals no more than 14 hours (including up to 11 hours of drive time).
- 10-hour Rule: Once the driver finishes his or her day, they will need 10 hours of off-duty time for sleep and rest before he or she can start work again.
- 8-hour Rule: Drivers can not drive for more than eight straight consecutive hours without taking at least a 30-minute break.
A driver records his or her work and drive time via log books. Compliance with hours of service requirements can now be recorded electronically by e-logs. Many large companies are moving toward e-logs as a way to reduce the chance of driver error.
Per Section 396.11 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), drivers must complete pre- and post-trip inspections each day in operation. This means that before the driver gets behind the wheel each day to drive, he or she must perform a thorough walk-around of the vehicle, checking things like brake lines, tire pressure, fluids, trailer tandems, and the load (if applicable). At the end of each day, the same things must be done. The driver must complete and turn in a driver vehicle inspection report and turn it in to the company.
Cell Phone Use
Regardless of your state’s cell phone laws, interstate truck drivers are strictly prohibited from using a handheld device for any purpose. This means no texting, no talking, no surfing, and no GPS. They can mount the phone, and Bluetooth is acceptable. But any use of a handheld device is illegal, regardless of local or state laws.
Alcohol and Drug Use
Trucking companies must have an alcohol and drug testing compliance program in place. Even owner-operators have specific reporting rules. The key guidelines, however, say that after an accident, the trucking company must test the driver for drugs or alcohol. Likewise, state laws set the threshold for impairment much lower than for the general public. For instance, in New York, 0.08% is the blood alcohol concentration at which the law presumes impairment. It is only 0.04% for CDL truck drivers.
True and Accurate Maintenance Records
Trucking companies must also maintain proper and accurate records of maintenance. In 2018, most large trucking companies now automate their maintenance logs and maintain them as electronic systems, much like medical records. They are kept in the regular course of business and are subject to subpoena or discovery in litigation.
Motor carriers are required to maintain certain specific records and information regarding accidents and crashes. Among this information, carriers must keep insurance information, crash reports, and other documents that are requested by the federal government. These reports must be made to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), at which time much of the information is subject to request by the general public through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
Getting Skilled and Experienced Advice After a Trucking Accident
After a trucking accident, you can not afford to take your time. Trucking companies will quickly begin cleaning up the mess, destroying evidence, repairing the truck, and taking steps to avoid any liability. The sooner you call an attorney with trucking crash litigation experience, the sooner an attorney can begin protecting your rights. Call Heninger Garrison Davis, LLC today to schedule a free consultation. We will listen and offer advice, and we only take a fee if we succeed.