Large commercial vehicles, especially big rig, semi, and 18-wheelers, often pose serious dangers on the roadways of Texas and are therefore highly regulated. These vehicles cause some of the most devastating collisions because, in trucking, time is money, and drivers are frequently under the gun to meet delivery deadlines along with long and strenuous working hours.
The severity statistics are unfortunately very high as more than half a million truck accidents occur every year in the United States, leading to over a hundred thousand injuries. Counties having a significant population are more likely to have higher crash rates. This is especially true in Fort Worth and Dallas, where several major highways run right through the cities.
Larger vehicles are heavy, operate differently, have individual blind spots, turn differently, and have a higher center of gravity. However, this risks are offset when truck drivers with specialized qualifications and training meticulously pay attention to the rules of roads.
Unique federal or state safety regulations apply in the case of truck safety. In fact, the rules and regulations are also quite extensive, and in this blog, we will explain just that. If the drivers fail to adhere to the required trucking regulations, they put themselves and other drivers on the road at risk of serious injury and even death.
Trucking companies often claim that they regularly revise their safety procedures to reduce the number of deadly accidents on the roads. Unfortunately, these protocols are hardly ever put into action. Companies continue placing their profits ahead of the safety of all drivers who share the road.
What is more crucial here is to impose the necessary truck safety regulations to avoid potential dangers. Larger vehicles are subject to strict safety regulations enacted by the United States government and the individual states to protect the public against negligent, untrained, as well as deliberately indifferent truck drivers.
If the truck in question meets the meets the legal criteria of a commercial motor vehicle, both the driver as well as the vehicle and the company must comply with the truck vehicle driving code of conduct.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) apply to vehicles that:
- Engage in interstate* commerce
- Weigh more than 10,000 pounds
- Carry hazardous materials
- Transport at least eight people
However, the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Motor Carrier Safety Regulations apply to commercial vehicles that:
- Engage in intrastate* commerce
- Deliver goods within the state
- Weigh 26,000 pounds or more
- Is a farm vehicle weighing 48,000 pounds or more
- Transport more than 15 people
- Transport hazardous fluids or materials
*Interstate trucking is where the commercial motor vehicle was driven across the state lines in the transport of its load. The driver engages in transporting goods from point A to point B, where the destination is outside the state borders.
*Intrastate trucking is when the driver transports the goods within the state boundaries. The engagement remains inside the state, where the final destination is within the state of origin.
Now that you understand the basics, let us give you an in-depth view of the different rules that apply to truck safety regulations in Dallas, Fort Worth, Lewisville, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, and around.
Commercial trucking companies in Texas are obligated by the Texas Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to maintain a minimum liability insurance coverage for each of their registered vehicles and also against bodily injuries, property damage, and environmental restoration.
But which of the two laws apply to the vehicle and the coverage depends on whether the vehicle operates interstate or intrastate, and also depends on its type.
For instance, a commercial motor vehicle that weighs around 26,000 pounds or above may transport household goods. Such trucks are required to carry at least $500,000 of liability insurance. If the vehicle operates within Texas and weighs below 26,000 pounds, the minimum coverage must be $300,000.
On the contrary, if the truck travels interstate and weighs more than 10,000 pounds carrying household goods, it is to maintain minimum liability coverage of around $750,000 as mandated by the FMCSA.
If some level of destruction arises due to a discharge of environmentally toxic liquids or materials, environmental restoration liability is to apply.
In addition to vehicular protection, drivers must also be covered in the case of an accident. If the driver is an employee, they must ideally be covered by the trucking company insurance policy. Independent contractors must have their primary liability policy along with business liability insurance coverage.
Understanding this distinction is essential when it comes to claiming reimbursements in case of any harms or losses caused by a commercial motor vehicle like a bus, dump truck, or 18-wheeler.
Based on the insurance policy, a trucking company must also cover things like non-trucking liability, cargo insurance, uninsured motorist coverage, physical damage, accidental coverage, rental reimbursement, and more.
Hours of Service Regulations
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, specific protocols have been put in place to improve highway safety and give drivers more flexibility. The highlights are as follows:
Short-Haul Exception: For particular commercial drivers, the on-duty period is extended from 12-hours to 14-hours (allowing around 11 to 13 hours of actual driving), and the distance limit is raised from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.
Adverse Driving Conditions: When the driver is stuck in adverse driving conditions, their on-duty period may be extended from 12 to 14 on-duty hours, giving them an extension of two hours.
30-Minute Break Rule: Earlier, drivers took an off-duty 30-minute break after continuous eight hours of driving. Now they can list the status as on duty and not drive but may handle other tasks such as rearranging the cargo, fixing tires, or additional manual labor.
Pause in the 14-hour Driving Window: An off duty break of 30 minutes to three hours is now allowed and does not count against the driving window.
Sleeper-Berth Exception: Eight out of ten consecutive hours off duty were required to spend in sleeper berth. Now the rules allow drivers to split the time between one session of around seven consecutive hours in the sleeper birth and another session of at least two consecutive hours off duty.
Inadequate monitoring, driver fatigue, and work-related stress account for around 35% of all truck accidents in the U.S., and it should come as no surprise that about 73% of the deaths occur in the other vehicle. Hours of service rules are set to save the motorist instead of inducing a distressing driving experience.
Click here to read more about new FMCSA hours of service regulations that may take effect in 2020.
Commercial vehicles are difficult to maneuver. This is why trucking companies must provide adequate training to all their drivers. And it must be done on a general safety basis. The training is essential to keep the consignment safe and protect the driver’s own and other persons’ lives. Sufficient supervision is also necessary to make sure that everything is in strict compliance with the law.
The training aspect applies to all commercial vehicle drivers, including buses, garbage trucks, dump trucks, tow trucks, milk tankers, flatbed trucks, cement mixers, rock haulers, semi-trailer, 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, gas tankers, box trucks, bucket trucks, fire trucks, and more.
Professional drivers are also trained in loading and unloading the trucks to ensure those meet the weight-related guidelines. Big rig truckers are held to higher standards than any non-professional drivers, or else the trucks become susceptible to crashes.
Besides, the drivers qualify for driving commercial vehicles if:
They can speak, read and write English
They are 21 years old or above
They are in sound health
They possess a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
They have the skills to operate a truck and safely load, unload, or carry the cargo
The training makes sure that the drivers have the familiarity with the class of vehicle they are driving. They must know how to utilize the braking system, handle cargo, and understand the other associated critical mechanical processes before, during, and after transportation.
One must also possess the skills of turning, backing up, and merging lanes that will be a common occurrence on the road. The drivers must display just how confident they are behind the wheel.
Medical Certification Requirement
It is mandatory for the truck drivers to complete a self-certification affidavit to renew or apply for a commercial driver’s license. They must also indicate the kind of commerce they run. A copy of the USDOT medical examiner certificate is again a must (if one possesses the same). A medical variance copy is another necessary document. In case the driver fails to produce the required medical paperwork in the file with the Department of Public Safety, they risk downgrading their license.
Thus, every truck driver is supposed to send their newly-issued medical certificates and CLD-7 to the DPS before 15 days are over from the DOT medical certificate issuance.
Safety Fitness Standard
An on-site Safety Investigator assesses the truck and checks its records to see if the vehicle complies with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) as well as the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR).
Based on this investigation and if the driver plus the vehicle meet the necessary Safety Fitness Standard (SFS) protocols, the driver is awarded one of the following safety ratings:
Unsatisfactory: This straight away means that there barely are any safety management controls put in place
Satisfactory: This means that adequate safety management controls are put in place to meet the SFS requirements for the driver and vehicular protection
Conditional: This means that the vehicle does not get a ten out of ten – only specific safety management controls are in place and in accordance to the safety fitness standards, which may potentially increase the occurrence of dangerous road accidents
Unrated Carrier: This means that the carrier has not been assigned with any safety ratings by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
New Entrant Background Information
FMCSA mandates that any new entrant interstate trucking company complete the Motor Carrier Identification Report (MCS-150) application package and the Safety Certification Application for USDOT Number. One can do this online at the USDOT registration portal.
Once the application processes are taken care of, the carrier is then subject to an 18-month safety monitoring period. It is during this time that the safety audit for roadside crashes and inspection information will also be evaluated. The carrier must demonstrate that all the essential safety management control systems are put right in place. A failure to comply with these regulations may lead to having the company’s vehicle entrant registration revoked.
Controlled Substance and Alcohol Testing
All the truck drivers, either on the interstate or intrastate operations, are supposed to undergo a controlled substance and alcohol use testing.
No exemptions apply when it comes to Commercial Driving License and drug/ alcohol testing regulations for the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Service (CVES). However, active-duty military personnel may be an exception from such federal safety regulations.
Drivers must not perform any safety-sensitive operations until they clear the alcohol and controlled substance tests. Nor should the companies condone such poor practices. In the event of an accident, the company must immediately test the surviving drivers for alcohol and controlled substance abuse. This is especially necessary if the accident has caused injuries to any persons or environmental losses. Testing also becomes mandatory if one or more vehicles on the site have incurred damages to such an extent that these may require a tow truck for transportation.
In addition to the above rules and regulations, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations address a few more truck safety concerns such as the following:
Impaired Driving: Drivers are not allowed to get behind the wheel if they are sick or exhausted, and it may negatively impact their ability to drive safely. Strict regulations are put in place for drivers whose licenses have been suspended for drug or alcohol impairment.
Driving Records: Different types of records of the drivers and their driving time, including safety inspections, repairs, routine maintenance, logbooks, etc. must be accurately maintained over a designated period.
Truck Maintenance: Drivers and the trucking companies are both supposed to perform regular and adequate inspection and maintenance of their vehicles before each trip to ensure road safety.
Hiring Practices: It goes without saying, trucking companies must perform significant background checks and tests before hiring any drivers. Plus, there must be sufficient staffing across all operations.
It is unlawful for the companies to compel their drivers to ignore the regulations or break the regulations making it unsafe to drive on the road.
How Do Truck Regulations Affect An Accident Case?
Most truck accidents usually happen due to direct violations of motor carrier safety regulations. In Texas, for instance, specific statutes can impact a truck accident case. The driver’s negligence may be counted if the accident results from fatigue, failure to take rest breaks or violate other safety protocols. In case they alter the driving logs to accommodate falsifying practices or drove under the influence of a substance, they may be found in direct violation.
Negligence is a factor in the following situations:
Stress and fatigue – It is very common for trucking companies to encourage their drivers to work on long and strenuous hours. They falsify the records documenting rest hours without actually giving them the needed rest. This type of stress is a contributing factor to dangerous accidents. Companies may be found liable if they fail to properly manage their drivers or purposefully train them to ignore safety regulations.
Distracted driving – Most collisions result from reckless or distracted driving. Drivers who are working on tight deadlines are often in a rush to reach the next location. This causes them to engage in distracted driving, contributing to severe accidents.
Failure to secure freight – If the driver is untrained or unprofessional to distribute the load competently, it leads to an unsecured cargo. This behavior is then said to be negligent.
The company may also be held liable if they fail to provide proper training to the drivers or hire unqualified drivers.
These unsafe conditions are often avoidable if the companies and drivers follow safe practices on the road. But if anyone has been affected or been a victim of truck accidents, we are here to assist. As a general rule, you have only two years from the crash date to file a truck wreck injury case.
How Can Samples Ames Help?
Determining which regulations apply in your particular case may seem a little complicated. This is why it helps to work with a truck accident attorney in Dallas, Fort Worth, Lewisville, Carrollton, and Farmers Branch, who has extensive knowledge about federal and state motor carrier safety laws.
Trucking companies and drivers are governed by either state regulations or local decrees. If the driver is found to breach the rules, Samples Ames PLLC has thorough know-how to represent the affected victims.
For more information on the common truck regulations and issues in Carrollton, Dallas, Farmers Branch, Fort Worth, and around DFW, an expert consultation is the best step to take.
Call Samples Ames PLLC today at (469) 466-2600 or (817) 605-1505 for better assistance and to get the legal answers you may have been seeking from long. Our attorneys and safety consultants are skilled and well equipped with the know-how and expertise to help you in these matters. We also help truck accident victims in Dallas and Fort Worth in getting the settlements they deserve.
If your case is accepted, we charge no up-front costs. We charge only when we are successful at recovering your justified compensation. Samples Ames PLLC takes all the financial risk so you can concentrate on what is more important to you besides the finances of the case.
Schedule a FREE case evaluation right away.
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Steve Samples is board certified in personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He has been selected as a SuperLawyers® Rising Star® by Thomson Reuters.