What are the Federal or State Laws That Govern Truck Drivers?
Trucking companies must follow many federal laws found in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSA) such as:
1. Keeping a driving log by the commercial truck driver
2. Obtaining a commercial driver’s license for certain vehicles to reduce or prevent truck accidents, serious injuries, and death
3. Carrying specific insurance coverage for commercial trucks depending upon the type of load being transported
Here are common federal rulings used in accident litigation:
9 C.F.R. § 391 – Qualification of Drivers
If a driver operates a tractor trailer or other commercial vehicle that weighs over 10,000 pounds, carries 16 or more passengers, or transports hazardous materials, he must comply with certain regulations. Truck drivers must be at least 21 years old, speak English, be physically able to safely operate a truck, and have a valid CDL. In addition, the driver must not be disqualified for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, committing a felony, leaving the scene of an accident, refusing to take an alcohol test, or for any other reason.
9 C.F.R. § 397 – Transportation of Hazardous Materials
This section applies to the drivers of commercial motor vehicles that transport hazardous materials and the employees who perform supervisory duties related to the transportation of these materials. Generally, the driver of a commercial motor vehicle carrying explosives cannot leave the vehicle unattended. There are restrictions as to where a driver carrying explosive materials may park. No smoking is allowed within 25 feet of a truck containing explosives or flammable materials.
49 C.F.R. § 382 – Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing
This section is to establish programs within the trucking industry to prevent accidents and injuries resulting from the use of alcohol or drugs by commercial vehicle drivers. It applies to all drivers of commercial vehicles in the US and their employers. Truck drivers required to have a commercial drivers license (CDL), must be tested if they drive a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, designed to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver), or carries hazardous materials.
The Commercial Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program requires that States and certain jurisdictions develop, support, and implement safety programs that establish and improve safer transportation of goods.
The State of Indiana also has many specific laws, which apply to truck drivers. The following Indiana Code, regarding a Commercial Driver’s License, outlines what are considered serious traffic violations for drivers of commercial motor vehicles:
Serious traffic violations
- Operating a vehicle at least fifteen (15) miles per hour above posted speed limit
- Operating a vehicle recklessly
- Improper or erratic traffic lane changes
- Following a vehicle too closely
- In connection with a fatal accident, violating any statute, ordinance, or rule concerning motor vehicle traffic control other than parking statutes, ordinances, or rules.
- Operating a vehicle while disqualified under this chapter.
- For drivers who are not required to always stop at a railroad crossing, failing to do any of the following:
- Slow down and determine that the railroad tracks are clear of an approaching train or other on-track equipment
- Stop before reaching the railroad crossing
- For all drivers, whether or not they are required to always stop at a railroad crossing, to do any of the following:
- Stopping in a railroad crossing
- Failing to obey a traffic control device or failing to obey the directions of a law enforcement officer at a railroad crossing
- Stopping in a railroad crossing because of insufficient undercarriage clearance
- Operating a commercial motor vehicle without having ever obtained a commercial driver’s license.
- Operating a commercial motor vehicle without a commercial driver’s license in the possession of the individual.
- Operating a commercial motor vehicle without holding the proper class or endorsement of a commercial driver’s license for the operation of the class of the commercial motor vehicle.
State and Federal commercial trucking regulations can be very complex and confusing. That’s why it’s important to talk with an experienced attorney who can explain and apply them to your specific truck accident case.