Federal Trucking Law
Federal Regulations | Driver Requirements | Driver Fatigue Factors | Truck Company Requirements | Compensation | Assigning Blame
The trucking industry is one of America’s most important and regulated industries, annually transporting nearly 70 percent of all of the freight of hard-working American labor and goods. And more business across America means more business for truck drivers and companies that transport everything needed to conduct business. Though beneficial to the economy, the trucking industry comes at a cost, with more than 4,000 people involved in fatal truck accidents just last year. Expect that number to increase with the recent, steady rise in the economy and the inevitable need to ship more goods.
The trucking industry in the United States is highly regulated by numerous federal and state laws. Federal standards can be found on the Department of Transportation’s website with the true source of the regulations in Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, Motor Carriers, parts 350 through 400. When an accident occurs, a violation of any of these rules makes a case of negligence easier to obtain. Most states, including Oregon, adopt the federal standards, or something similar to those standards. Drivers and companies are not always in compliance, many times with business incentives not to follow the law. Sometimes, drivers and companies may not even be aware that they are violating a law.
Truck drivers are held to a high standard of accountability when they are involved in an accident. They must have specialized training and must meet numerous requirements to be safe and defensive drivers and know how to operate the specific vehicle they drive. A driver must be 21 years old, in good health, speak and read English, pass a vehicle safety exam, and know how to properly load and unload his or her truck. A truck driver must obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in his or her own home state, and it must be the driver’s only license. Drivers are also subjected to numerous inspections, certifications, and must pass random controlled substance and alcohol tests.
Driver Fatigue as a Factor in Truck Accidents
Drivers are required to maintain logbooks to keep track of hours spent on duty. Because driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of truck accidents, there is a daily and weekly limit on the amount of hours a driver can be on the road. There are mandatory break times, time-off periods, and a regulated sleep schedule. Logbooks are one of the most obstructed pieces of evidence of a driver’s negligence after an accident. Trucking companies may also put pressure on drivers to ignore the law and quickly deliver the goods.
Trucking Company Requirements
With greater responsibility, trucking companies are subjected to even more regulation than drivers and can be more liable in an accident. Companies must monitor closely their employees’ hours of service, fitness, and qualifications, and must participate in government-monitored programs to ensure that drivers are not substance abusers or alcoholics. Companies must regularly inspect and repair their vehicles in accordance with federal standards. Trucks must not only be safe, but also within certain weight-size limits, be properly marked with identification, and carry proper permits.
Compensation in a Truck Accident
Federal laws require truck drivers and companies to carry a minimum level of accident insurance to compensate victims for injuries and property loss. It is important to call a lawyer immediately for advice and help in determining if you deserve compensation for someone else’s negligence. A lawyer can help you identify which laws a driver or company violated by obtaining evidence that proves a violation. By obtaining a driver’s logbook, sending an expert to inspect the vehicle for defects, or accessing various databases to check a driver’s permits and qualifications, the lawyer can make your case to get you the compensation you deserve.
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Assigning Blame in an Accident
Truck accidents are much more complicated than auto accidents because different parties may be involved. The company that owns a truck may be responsible for failing to adequately hire a driver or properly keep a vehicle in good repair. A trucking company may also be at fault in an accident when driver fatigue is involved. A tire manufacturer could potentially be held accountable for a product defect that caused a truck to lose control and strike an innocent person or vehicle.
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