Any motor vehicle accident can lead to life-changing injuries and deaths. However, trucking accidents are known for being some of the most devastating and damaging collisions. The power of a large and heavy commercial truck can cause severe harm to those in a smaller vehicle. Federal laws are in place to help improve the safety of the trucking industry and prevent trucking accidents. Violating these rules and regulations increases the odds of a serious truck accident. Speak to a San Antonio truck accident attorney if you experience a collision caused by the careless or negligent actions of another motorist.
Why Do Federal Trucking Regulations Exist?
The risks posed by the trucking industry necessitate federal safety laws to help decrease the odds of accidents between large trucks and standard passenger cars. An agency known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, is responsible for enforcing these laws. Many trucking rules and regulations established by the FMCSA exist in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations.
It is critical for all involved parties to obey these rules, laws and restrictions. They are in place for the safety of all motorists and the general public. Breaching or violating trucking regulations can greatly increase the chances of deadly accidents. Since commercial truck accidents often inflict catastrophic and life-threatening injuries on victims in smaller cars, the safety of the trucking industry is imperative for protecting the public.
One of the main laws in place by the FMCSA is the hours-of-service restriction. This law restricts the number of hours a commercial truck driver can operate a truck consecutively without taking a rest or meal break. This rule helps improve trucking industry safety by addressing the issue of truck driver fatigue.
Truck drivers often struggle with drowsiness due to long hours on the road, reversed daytime and nighttime schedules, trouble sleeping in a truck’s sleeper berth, and sleep problems such as sleep apnea. In an effort to prevent truck drivers from falling asleep behind the wheel, the FMCSA enforces limits on how long a driver can drive without taking a rest break.
The current hours-of-service rule enforces a maximum duty period of 14 hours, meaning no driver can drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour following 10 hours off-duty. In addition, after driving for 8 cumulative hours, drivers must take a 30-minute break. Finally, there is a 60/70 hour on-duty limit in 7/8 consecutive days. Violating these restrictions increases the risk of drowsy driving and serious truck accidents.
Truck Weight Restrictions
Federal law has maximum vehicle weights and axle loads for operating large trucks on interstate highways. Currently, these maximums are 80,000 pounds for gross vehicle weight, 34,000 pounds on a tandem axle group and 20,000 pounds on a single axle. Some trucks can exceed these weight limits, but only with approval and special overweight truck permits. If a large truck is too heavy, it may not be possible for the truck driver to properly control the vehicle. Overweight trucks can be too difficult to stop, for example, or may become imbalanced and rollover.
Required Truck Maintenance
Commercial trucks need a certain amount of maintenance to operate safely and efficiently. Trucking companies are required to regularly inspect their trucks to search for potential problems and defects, as well as order high-quality repairs before allowing the truck back on the road. Unfortunately, trucking companies often try to cut corners and save money by inadequately maintaining their fleets.
Violating truck maintenance regulations can lead to big rigs that are unsafe for the road and experience breakdowns in transit. A truck with worn-out brakes, for example, could suffer brake failure that leads to a devastating accident. The FMCSA has several rules in place for the inspection, repair and maintenance of large trucks, including required recordkeeping for each vehicle and driver vehicle inspection reports.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a significant cause of motor vehicle accidents each year. The trucking industry has drug and alcohol testing requirements for truck drivers during the hiring procedure, after any type of accident and at random. If a truck driver fails a drug or alcohol test, this must be reported and remain on the driver’s record. Failing to terminate a driver who is driving under the influence can lead to liability for a related accident going to the trucking company.
Who Is Responsible for Truck Accidents Caused by Regulation Violations?
Despite the importance of obeying federal trucking laws, many truck companies and truck drivers commit violations. Narrow profit margins and tight deadlines often lead to workers in the trucking industry breaking the rules for the company’s own gain. Unfortunately, these bad decisions can have catastrophic consequences.
If a truck accident in Texas is caused by a violation of federal law, the injured victim may have the right to file a lawsuit against one or more parties for causing the crash. For example, a truck accident that is traced back to inadequate truck driver training, fleet maintenance or other types of trucking company negligence could make the company legally responsible.
Trucking companies can also be held responsible for the negligence of their drivers. If a truck driver violates an FMCSA regulation, the company he or she works for could be vicariously liable. Trucking companies have insurance to cover accidents that involve their trucks and drivers. You can access this coverage as a crash victim with proof of trucking company or truck driver negligence.
How a Truck Accident Attorney Can Help You
Truck accidents have the potential to leave victims seriously injured, with financial hardships and long-term disabilities. The severe nature of truck accidents can also inflict major psychological trauma on survivors. The immense losses associated with commercial truck accidents make most victims eligible for financial compensation for these collisions.
In Texas, the fault-based insurance system requires crash victims to determine fault or liability before filing claims. The at-fault party will be responsible for paying for a victim’s medical bills and property repairs. After a truck accident, contacting an attorney is the most reliable way to identify the parties who are responsible for the crash.
A law firm can provide a comprehensive investigation of the collision, determine if a regulation violation caused the accident, collect evidence, file your claim, deal with insurance companies on your behalf, negotiate a fair settlement and take your case to trial, if necessary. You can trust your attorney to handle the legal side of things for you while you focus on healing from a traumatic truck accident.