In an acknowledgment of the undeniably dangerous potential presented by the operation of heavy trucks on the open roads, the federal government has put into place voluminous regulations and rules designed to facilitate the safest possible conditions for truckers and those with whom they share the highways and byways of the United States.
When a serious accident occurs and injuries or death result, it is necessary to explore whether violations of one more Clearwater federal trucking laws and industry regulations took place and to ascertain the identities of all parties from whom compensation may be rightly pursued. Consult a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer that can explain these regulations and advocate on your behalf following an accident.
Federal Trucking Regulation Framework
The entire body of applicable trucking regulations promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is found at 49, C.F.R. §§350-399, and these rules pertain to all vehicles participating in interstate travel.
While these regulations touch upon a vast array of topics related to the safe and effective operation of heavy trucks on American roads, there are certain provisions that tend to emerge more often than others in the context of accident and injury litigation.
Violations of these rules can significantly bolster a case for financial compensation after an accident, and it is, therefore, important to gain a strong understanding of their contents.
Hours of Service Rules
Perhaps the most important, yet hotly debated rules hailing from the FMCSA are those known as the Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. The purpose of these provisions is to prevent truck drivers from remaining behind the wheel when they are fatigued.
The unfortunate truth is that an alarming number of trucking companies tacitly permit or even encourage their employees to skirt the restrictions, which include:
- Driving for no more than 11 hours with 10 consecutive off-duty hours in between
- Observing a 14-hour maximum on-duty period beyond which they may not drive
- Observing a maximum 60-hour on duty limit within a seven day period or a 70-hour limit within a period of eight days
Drug and Alcohol-Related Safety Provisions
Each state has its own laws pertaining to driving while intoxicated, though federal authorities have added an even tougher set of rules when it comes to commercial truck operators. Some key points in this realm include:
- Operators must never perform a safety-sensitive function while using alcohol, while they have a BAC of 0.04 percent or higher or within four hours of ingesting alcohol
- Operators are prohibited from refusing alcohol testing and from ingesting alcohol within the eight hours that follow an accident or until testing occurs
- Operators must submit to alcohol and drug screens following all accidents, when there is a reasonable suspicion of intoxication, when there is a return-to-duty request and also on a random basis
Inspections, Maintenance, and Driving Logs
Arguably the most labor-intensive part of complying with Clearwater federal trucking laws and industry regulations revolves around the required keeping of logs that detail a wide range of essential activities and safety precautions. As described by 49 C.F.R. 379, the topics on which these extensive records must touch include:
- Results of any necessary alcohol or drug testing
- Detailed reports on vehicle condition and safety measures
- Accurate portrayals of each driver’s on-duty and off-duty status changes
- Technical inspections of a truck’s steering, braking system, tires and other vital emergency equipment
While these records can be a treasure trove of evidence in the aftermath of a serious injury accident involving a heavy truck, federal law only compels trucking companies to retain them for a limited period of time.
Therefore, the sooner the help of an experienced truck accident attorney is obtained following a crash, the stronger the chances of securing a favorable outcome.
Aggressive Investigation into Violations of Federal Trucking Rules
Accidents involving heavy trucks are known for their life-altering, often crippling effects on innocent victims. It is crucial that those harmed by the negligence of a truck driver or trucking company obtain zealous representation as they seek the various forms of compensation for which they may be eligible.
An attorney able to investigate and highlight dangerous violations of Clearwater federal trucking laws and industry regulations is precisely the type of advocate injured parties deserve.