When you are involved in an accident with a truck, it’s not just the regular rules of the road that are at play. Truck drivers must follow a long list of state and federal motor carrier safety regulations that can make a case involving a commercial vehicle a lot more complicated, but also mored valuable.
Truck accidents include accidents with vehicles like 18-wheelers, construction vehicles, rental trucks, and smaller commercial pickup trucks. They may involve several different parties and be due to negligence or mismanagement by the driver or their company. If drivers or their employers violated any Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations or Texas Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, those truck accident cases can be even more complex.
These federal and state regulations cover the maintenance and operation of commercial trucks and apply to both the drivers and the companies who employ them. They take into account the unique dangers that commercial trucks can pose to other drivers on the road. Any violation of the regulations can be proof of negligence, which strengthens a personal injury claim. Here’s a look at how these regulations may affect your Texas truck accident case.
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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the federal body responsible for the oversight of commercial vehicles and their drivers. The FMCSA’s safety regulations apply to commercial vehicles involved in moving goods from state to state. Trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds, carrying hazardous materials, or transporting at least eight people must follow these regulations.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations address truck safety concerns such as:
- Hours-of-service rules. There are strict regulations for how long drivers can operate a truck. Truck drivers typically have a 14-hour driving window during which they may actually drive for up to 11 hours (or 13 in adverse driving conditions like bad weather or road construction). Truck drivers must have 10 consecutive hours off between shifts.
- Mandated rest periods. Drivers are required to take a 30-minute rest break after eight hours of driving time. They may perform on-duty tasks other than driving, like paperwork and refueling, during this time.
- Impaired driving. Drivers aren’t permitted to get behind the wheel if fatigue or illness may negatively impact their ability to safety drive. They are prohibited from using controlled substances or driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04% or higher. There are also strict regulations for drivers who have had their license suspended for alcohol or drug impairment.
- Driving records. The FMCSA regulations mandate the types of records trucking companies and their drivers must keep, including log books documenting drive time. These records must be accurate and maintained on file for a designated period of time.
- Training requirements. Trucking companies are required to provide sufficient training for all of their drivers. Training must be done on general safety and things like the company’s substance use policies.
- Truck maintenance. Both trucking companies and drivers must perform regular maintenance of their vehicles to make sure they are safe on the road. Motor carrier safety regulations also require that they maintain logs of the vehicle’s safety inspections, routine maintenance, and major repairs.
- Hiring practices. The FMCSA regulations require trucking companies to perform background checks and testing before hiring a driver.
Motor carrier safety regulations also make it illegal for truck companies to pressure their drivers to ignore the regulations, drive an unsafe truck, or otherwise break the law.
Texas Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
The state of Texas has generally adopted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, but the Texas Motor Carrier Safety Regulations apply to commercial vehicles that deliver goods within the state and that:
- Weigh 26,000 pounds or more
- Transport more than 15 people
- Transport hazardous material
The state also has different hours-of-service provisions, with a maximum 12-hour driving time after eight hours off duty. Texas truck drivers are also not permitted to drive after being on duty for 15 hours.
Determining which regulations apply can be complicated, which is why it helps to work with a truck accident lawyer in Austin who has extensive knowledge about both federal and state motor carrier safety laws.
How Do These Regulations Affect My Truck Accident Case?
Many truck accidents happen as a direct violation of a motor carrier safety regulation by the truck driver or trucking company. When that happens, there is likely evidence of negligent behavior.
A driver may be negligent in a resulting accident if they do things like drive while fatigued after failing to take the mandated rest breaks or fail to follow the protocol for maintaining their vehicle. Drivers may be found in direct violation of the motor carrier safety regulations if they do things like alter their driving logs to make it appear that they got more rest than they did or drive while under the influence of a substance.
A trucking company may also be liable for the actions of its employees if it failed to provide proper training or hired an unqualified driver. Companies can also be liable themselves for violating the motor carrier safety regulations by doing such things as falsifying driving logs.
These are just a few situations in which negligence may be a factor:
- Driver fatigue and stress. It’s not uncommon for trucking companies to encourage their drivers to work long hours, often without sufficient rest. Trucking companies may even encourage drivers to falsify records documenting rest periods. Stress is another factor, and many truck drivers claim stress was a contributing factor in an accident. When trucking companies fail to properly manage drivers or purposefully train them to ignore safety regulations, they may be found liable.
- Reckless and distracted driving. Unsafe driving is often a factor in trucking collisions. Truck drivers who work long hours are often in a rush to reach their next location, causing them to speed and drive recklessly. Drivers also frequently engage in distracted driving while talking on the phone or eating. Determining whether the driver’s behaviors contributed to your accident can help prove negligence.
- Improper loading and failure to secure freight. Truck accidents often occur when drivers don’t properly distribute loads or secure freight. Whether this happens because the trucking company failed to provide sufficient training or the driver was just in a rush, the behavior may be found negligent.
It’s important to consider all of the factors that played a part in a truck accident. An experienced truck accident lawyer can review crash reports, witness statements, company logs, and employee records to help determine if negligence was a factor.
How FVF Can Help
Proving that a truck driver or trucking company violated a motor carrier safety regulation or acted negligently can be complicated and challenging. When negligence or recklessness was a factor in your case, gathering the evidence takes experience, patience, and commitment. Our truck accident lawyers in Austin can make sure to get all the necessary evidence, including driver’s logs and maintenance records, to show that negligence was a factor.
FVF’s lawyers strive to handle each case with compassion and understanding, tailoring our advice to meet the specific circumstances of your case. We understand how stressful and confusing a truck accident can be, and we work to make the whole process as efficient and straightforward as possible. We’ll also focus on improving your quality of life after an accident, helping you obtain financial resources and medical treatment that will protect your financial well-being and health.
Our Austin truck accident lawyers have been supporting personal injury clients in central Texas since 2014, with over 70 combined years of legal expertise shared between our team. Our team will do the legwork, going above and beyond to investigate the cause of your accident and hold negligent and liable parties responsible. Contact us today to schedule a free, remote consultation with a truck accident lawyer in Austin so you can start putting your life back together.