Commercial Trucking Regulations: How Violations Can Impact Your Claim

Commercial trucking is heavily regulated by federal and state laws to ensure safety on the roads. These regulations are designed to protect carriers and other motorists, but they aren’t always followed properly. This leads to trucking accidents that result in numerous injuries and deaths on the road every year. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a trucking accident, know that you have recourse. A good trucking accident lawyer will understand how these regulations play a significant role in truck accident lawsuits, as violations can impact liability and the compensation you receive.

What are the most impactful commercial trucking regulations and how can they impact your case?

Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets HOS rules to limit the number of consecutive hours truck drivers can operate their vehicles. These rules are designed to prevent fatigue-related accidents by requiring rest periods and breaks. They are put in place to keep drivers and other motorists safe, but they are often recklessly violated at alarming numbers. Reports have shown there are higher rates of HOS violations since 2020, resulting in an uptick of crashes.

The most common HOS violations include:

  1. Operating past 14 hours on duty 
  2. Driving over 60-70 hours in 7-8 days   
  3. Having no record of duty status 
  4. The falsification of driver logs 
  5. Having the wrong class license 

Violations of HOS regulations can lead to driver fatigue, which is a heavy contributor to accidents. This creates liability that has a substantial impact on trucking accident cases. Logbooks and electronic logging devices (ELDs) are often examined to prove such violations in court.

Maintenance and Inspection Requirements

FMCSA regulations require regular maintenance and inspection of commercial trucks to ensure they are in safe operating condition. Failure to conduct proper maintenance or inspections can lead to mechanical failures that cause accidents. Maintenance records become critical evidence in establishing negligence. 

Negligence made by truck manufacturers can also be used in trucking accident cases. There are times when defects in trucking equipment can play a major part in an accident, meaning that it is not just the carrier company that can be held liable for injury or death.

Cargo Securement Standards

When cargo is not properly secured, it can shift while inside a truck, causing the driver to lose control. There are specific requirements for securing cargo on commercial trucks to prevent it from shifting or falling off during transit, potentially causing accidents or road hazards. Improperly secured cargo can be a major factor in accidents, and evidence of non-compliance with securement standards can support claims of negligence.

Cargo securement rules as dictated by the FMCSA include: 

  • Cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on or within a vehicle by structures of adequate strength, dunnage or dunnage bags, tiedowns, or any combination of these securements. 
  • Cargo that can roll must be restrained by chocks, wedges, a cradle, or other equivalent means to prevent rolling. 
  • A minimum working load limit for cargo securement devices and systems 
  • A minimum number of tiedowns must be used (one tiedown for articles 5 ft or less in length, and 1,100 lbs. or less in weight)

Weight Limits

The FMCSA and state laws impose limits on the weight of commercial trucks and their cargo to prevent overloading, which can affect a truck’s maneuverability and stopping distance. Trucks that are overweight are dangerous while on the road, especially when being driven at high speeds. Overloaded trucks or violations of weight regulations can contribute to accidents and can be used to influence the outcome of a lawsuit.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Not surprisingly, truck drivers are subject to strict drug and alcohol testing regulations, including pre-employment screening, random testing, and post-accident testing. Any evidence of drug or alcohol use by a truck driver at the time of an accident can significantly affect liability and the potential for punitive damages.

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Requirements

Drivers of commercial vehicles are required to have a CDL, obtained through specific training and testing to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to operate large trucks safely. However, not every driver on the road is operating with a license. Many carrier’s licenses have expired, been suspended or revoked, etc., which is a large liability. This negligence, whether on the part of the driver or the company they are driving for, can be used in court to establish fault and liability for an accident.

Medical Requirements 

Truck drivers must pass a physical examination to receive a medical certificate confirming they are healthy enough to safely operate a commercial vehicle. These Department of Transportation (DOT) examinations include checks on hearing, eyesight, blood pressure, and other physical requirements to safely operate a truck. Any medical condition that could lead to an accident must be disclosed during these examinations, and it’s up to the physician to conclude if the driver is fit to operate a commercial vehicle. If a driver’s medical condition contributes to an accident, and they were not medically certified or were driving against medical advice, this fact can be used in court.

Trust the Right Truck Accident Lawyer

A good truck accident lawyer will approach your case from every angle, asking the right questions to uncover and assign liability to the negligent parties who caused your accident. At Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, our attorneys are well-versed in trucking regulations. We can help you fortify your case to ensure that you get the justice you deserve. We’re not just legal experts, we’re also commercial trucking experts. Have you or a loved one been injured in a trucking accident? Let’s talk during a free case evaluation.