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How Trucking Regulations Impact Truck Accident Cases And Why You Need a Truck Accident Lawyer




Trucking regulations play a major role in truck accident cases. As a truck accident victim, it’s important to understand how these regulations work and how they impact your ability to receive compensation after an accident. This guide will provide an in-depth look at key trucking regulations, how they’re enforced, and how they affect your truck accident case.

Hours of Service Regulations

One of the most important trucking regulations is the hours of service trucking rule. This federal regulation limits the number of hours commercial truck drivers can be on the road before they must take a break. Here’s a quick overview of how the hours of service rule works:

  • 11-hour driving limit: You can only drive a maximum of 11 hours per day. After driving for 11 hours, you must take a 10-hour break before driving again.
  • 14-hour work limit: You can only work a total of 14 hours per day, including driving time and any other on-duty tasks like loading/unloading. After 14 hours, you must take a 10-hour break.
  • 60/70 hour limits: You can’t drive after working 60 hours over 7 days or 70 hours over 8 days.

These limits are enforced using logbooks where drivers must record their duty status and hours. Failing to adhere to hours of service rules or fudging logbook entries are serious violations. Fatigue is a major cause of truck crashes, so following hours of service is critical for safety.

For your case, hours of service violations can prove negligence if the trucker was driving over their limits at the time of your crash. Their employer can also be liable for pressuring them to violate hours of service rules. Make sure your attorney obtains the driver’s logbooks and crunches the numbers to check for violations.

Drug & Alcohol Testing

Another key regulation is mandatory drug and alcohol testing for commercial truck drivers. Here’s an overview of the major requirements:

  • Pre-employment testing: Drivers must pass a drug test before being hired by a trucking company. This helps keep impaired drivers off the road.
  • Random testing: Truckers are subjected to random drug and alcohol tests while employed. They can be tested anytime without notice.
  • Post-accident testing: Any driver involved in an accident must be tested for drugs/alcohol as soon as possible.
  • Reasonable suspicion testing: Drivers exhibiting signs of impairment can be required to take a drug or alcohol test at any time.

Failing a drug/alcohol test is a serious violation. Having any amount of alcohol or illegal drugs in your system while operating a CMV is illegal.

For your case, a post-accident test showing intoxication would be strong evidence to prove negligence. However, getting these records might be challenging for you. It is therefore one of the many reasons why you need a truck accident lawyer by your side as they can handle the red tape involved in getting the necessary documentation to prove your case.

Truck Driver Qualification & Licensing

To legally operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), a truck driver must possess a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) and meet qualification standards. Key requirements include:

  • CDL with proper class/endorsements: Drivers must have a CDL with the proper class and endorsements for the type of vehicle they operate. For example, a Class A CDL is required to drive tractor-trailers.
  • Medical exam: Truckers must pass a DOT medical examination confirming they are physically qualified to drive. They must renew their medical certificate every 2 years.
  • Entry-level driver training: All new CDL applicants must complete mandated training on topics like safe operating procedures before getting licensed.
  • Age minimum: You must be at least 21 years old to drive a CMV across state lines.
  • Testing: Drivers must pass knowledge and skills tests specific to driving a CMV to obtain a CDL.

If the trucker who caused your crash was not properly licensed or qualified medically, it supports a negligence claim. Be sure your lawyer checks the driver’s credentials thoroughly.

Truck Equipment Regulations

Trucks are subject to federal regulations on vehicle parts like brakes, lighting, tires, couplings, and more. Key examples include:

  • Brakes: Trucks must have adequate brakes and brake linings to stop safely. Brakes must be routinely inspected.
  • Lighting: Required lighting includes headlights, turn signals, brake lights, marker lights, and reflectors. Lights help make trucks more visible.
  • Coupling devices: Standards govern fifth wheel couplings, pintle hooks, tow bar eyes, etc. used to tow trailers.
  • Tires: Tires must have sufficient tread depth and be free of defects. Steering axle tires cannot be regrooved or recapped.
  • Cargo securement: Cargo must be properly distributed and adequately secured to keep it from shifting or falling from the trailer.

If faulty truck equipment like bald tires or bad brakes contributed to your crash, it points to trucking company negligence. Your lawyer should seek maintenance records and post-crash inspection reports to identify any equipment violations.

Truck Driver Fatigue Prevention And Why You Need a Truck Accident Lawyer to Prove It

While hours of service rules help prevent drowsy driving, there are additional fatigue prevention regulations:

  • Electronic logging devices (ELDs): ELDs are mandated to deter logbook tampering and fatigue. They record driving time electronically and must be used by most truckers.
  • Sleep apnea testing/treatment: Drivers must be screened and treated for obstructive sleep apnea which can cause fatigue.
  • Fatigue training: Motor carriers must provide education to drivers on preventing fatigue, symptoms, and impacts on safety.
  • Rest breaks: Trucking companies must give drivers adequate time for rest under hours of service rules and fatigued drivers should take more breaks as needed.

If driver fatigue caused your crash, the trucker, motor carrier, and/or shipping company could all share the blame for violating safety duties.

Your lawyer can subpoena fatigue-related records.


Trucking Company Oversight & Safety Rating

While drivers have an obligation to operate trucks safely, the trucking company also shares responsibility. To ensure motor carriers prioritize safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA):

  • Reviews carriers: FMCSA conducts compliance reviews examining trucking company safety management, driver qualification files, maintenance records, crash data, and more.
  • Issues safety ratings: Based on deficiencies found, each carrier receives a safety rating of satisfactory, conditional, or unsatisfactory. An unsatisfactory rating can lead to being shut down.
  • Implements interventions: FMCSA may impose fines, require safety improvement plans, or order company shutdowns for high-risk carriers.
  • Targets unsafe carriers: Through its Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, FMCSA works to improve high-crash carriers.

If the trucking company has a poor safety rating, a history of violations, or was under a FMCSA safety intervention, it helps show negligently lax safety policies contributed to your crash.

Shipping Company Role

While trucking companies have a primary responsibility for safety, shipping firms/customers employing their services also have a legal duty of care. Key requirements include:

  • Selecting safe carriers: Shippers must make reasonable efforts to choose carriers with satisfactory safety ratings and safe drivers.
  • Ensuring safe loads: Shippers must properly distribute, secure, and identify hazardous cargo being transported to minimize risks.
  • Safety contract terms: Shippers should include safety requirements for trucking companies in shipping contracts to promote compliance.

If the shipper failed in these duties and it resulted in your crash, they may share liability with the motor carrier. Your attorney should review shipping contracts and communications about your load.

Common Trucking Safety Violations

Some trucker actions that routinely violate safety regulations and contribute to crashes include:

  • Driving too fast for the conditions
  • Following other vehicles too closely
  • Distracted or drowsy driving
  • Reckless lane changes or passing
  • Failure to signal properly
  • Improper turns that cut off other vehicles
  • Disobeying traffic signals or signs
  • Failure to check blind spots
  • Improper loading leading to shifted cargo
  • Defective parts like faulty brakes or lights
  • Failure to properly inspect/maintain the vehicle

Your lawyer will thoroughly investigate the cause of your crash for evidence of such violations. Photos, crash reports, commercial vehicle inspection reports, and witness statements can all help identify misconduct by the truck driver and/or company.

Using Trucking Safety Violations to Prove Liability

Safety regulations exist to protect the public from harm. Failing to follow these rules constitutes negligence per se. That is, the actions are considered negligent in and of themselves based on the violation.

To leverage regulations in your claim, your trucking attorney will strive to:

  • Pinpoint specific violations that contributed to causing your accident and damages. Violating a safety statute is not enough – it must relate directly to the crash.
  • Prove the trucker had a duty to follow the regulations they violated. Truckers have a legal duty to adhere to all applicable FMCSA safety rules.
  • Present evidence of breach. Your lawyer must have proof the trucker actually violated the regulation. Examples include inspection reports, logbooks, positive drug tests, lack of proper CDL, etc.
  • Show causation. There must be a clear link between the breach of duty (reg violation) and the harm suffered. A crash reconstructionist can analyze this.
  • Prove damages. Your attorney will quantify crash-related costs like medical bills, lost wages, pain/suffering, property damage, etc. resulting from the trucker’s negligence.

By using regulations to establish the elements of negligence in your accident case, you strengthen your case dramatically. It makes it more difficult for the trucking company and insurance provider to avoid liability.


Impact of Multiple Trucking Violations

When multiple safety violations contribute to a truck crash, it often warrants higher settlements or verdicts. For example, a tired trucker driving an unsafe vehicle overloaded with unsecured cargo creates compounded risks.

Likewise, if both the truck driver and motor carrier ignored regulations, it enables naming both parties in your lawsuit. The more parties responsible, the more insurance policies are available to cover damages.

Documenting a pattern of non-compliance with regulations also suggests worse negligence. For instance, prior citations for logbook violations make fatigue-related violations more egregious. It’s harder for truckers with a history of violations to claim the latest one was an innocent mistake.

Make sure your attorney thoroughly investigates every opportunity to identify regulatory breaches. The quantity and severity of violations have a direct impact on claim value and trial outcomes.

Damages Not Limited by Trucking Regulations

While regulations help determine liability, it’s important to note they do not restrict the damages truck crash victims can recover. Damages in truck accident cases are governed by state personal injury laws.

Some examples of damages available despite federal trucking regulations include:

  • Pain and suffering: Trucking regulations don’t limit compensation for physical and emotional pain caused by crash injuries.
  • Loss of consortium: Spouses have their own claim for losing intimacy/companionship due to truckers’ negligence.
  • Punitive damages: Regulations don’t prevent juries from awarding extra damages to punish or deter egregious actions by truck companies.
  • Property damages: Trucking regulations don’t impose limits on compensation for vehicle repair/replacement costs.

Your qualified attorney will fight to recover every penny permitted under state law, even if it exceeds what federal regulations require of the trucking company. Don’t let insurers argue regulations restrict your rights.

You Need a Truck Accident Lawyer

As illustrated above, trucking regulations can significantly impact your ability to obtain a fair payout after a truck crash. However, leveraging regulations fully requires comprehensive legal knowledge and resources.

The best attorneys from reputable law firms like Zehl & Associates Injury & Accident Lawyers have what it takes to effectively level the playing field. Essentially, you need a truck accident lawyer because an expert lawyer can:

  • Navigate federal regulations and apply them advantageously in your injury claim or lawsuit.
  • Deploy crash reconstruction experts to analyze regulations in the context of the accident.
  • Obtain evidence needed to prove regulatory violations like log books, inspection reports, company safety records, etc.
  • Negotiate aggressively with insurers and defendants using regulations to demand full and fair compensation.
  • Try your case effectively, explaining regulations and violations to a jury in clear terms.

With an experienced truck accident law firm on your side, you can leverage regulations to gain maximum compensation with minimal hassle. Don’t leave money on the table – let regulations work for you, not against you.


Trucking regulations heavily influence truck crash cases and can empower victims when used right. By learning how safety rules like hours of service impact truckers, and hiring a qualified attorney to apply regulations to your case, you stand the best chance of winning a maximum settlement or verdict. Don’t wait to exercise your rights. Consult with a truck accident lawyer today to get started. With regulations on your side, justice is within reach.

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