Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers
Federal Trucking Regulations
The commercial transportation industry is heavily regulated by the federal government – and for good reason. Accidents involving commercial trucks and buses can be particularly devastating due to the massive size and weight of these vehicles against that of a typical passenger vehicle. Though large trucks account for only a small percentage of vehicles on the road, they are responsible for one out of every eight crash fatalities in the U.S. The vast majority of these victims are the occupants of the smaller vehicle struck by the truck.
In order to address this serious issue, the federal government established the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as a separate part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The primary function of the FMCSA is to create and enforce safety regulations and operating standards that are designed to reduce commercial motor vehicle-related crashes, injuries and fatalities. Rules set by the FMCSA apply to all employers, employees and commercial motor vehicles that transport property or passengers in interstate commerce. Some of the more significant regulations include:
Driver Requirements: Drivers must pass a written and skills test before they can obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Applicants must also obtain a Medical Examiner’s Certificate (DOT card) that certifies that they meet all physical and medical standards for operating a commercial motor vehicle. This includes routine drug and alcohol testing. Employers who fail to verify an applicant’s credentials prior to employment or take action against drivers who violate safety regulations may be held liable for truck accident victims’ injuries.
Hours of Service Regulations: Driver fatigue is a major cause of trucking accidents. In effort to keep drowsy truck drivers off the road, the FMCSA has set very strict limitations on the number hours drivers are permitted to work. These are known as Hours of Service regulations. To ensure compliance, drivers are required to keep detailed records of their activities throughout their shift, including driving time, on- and off-duty hours and rest breaks. Driver log books can be a key piece of evidence in truck accident cases where truck driver fatigue is suspected.
Mobile Phone Restrictions: Distracted driving is a serious risk factor for all types of motor vehicle accidents. However, when the distracted driver is behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound big rig, the potential for a deadly wreck is even greater. Studies show that even the simple act of dialing a phone number while driving makes a commercial driver at least six times more likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash. Truck drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to cause a crash. For this reason, commercial truck drivers are prohibited from using their mobile phone to send or read text messages or emails, or to hold or reach for a hand-held device to make or receive a call by pressing more than a single button.
Adverse Driving Conditions: Drivers must exercise extreme caution when encountering hazardous weather or unusual road or traffic conditions. Examples of conditions in which a driver should reduce their speed include: rain, snow, ice, fog, dust or smoke, uneven roads, construction zones, curves, intersections, gravel roads and heavy traffic. If weather conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the truck driver has a duty to cease operation of their vehicle until conditions improve enough to allow safe travel.
Cargo Securement: Rules regarding cargo placement and restraint are designed to protect motorists from the dangers of shifting and falling cargo. The securement system used must be appropriate for the cargo’s size, shape, strength and characteristics. The load must be evenly distributed and may not exceed maximum weight limits.
Hazardous Materials: Shipping companies must inform truck drivers of the contents of their cargo, especially if it includes potentially dangerous materials. Trucks carrying certain hazardous materials are required to carry a special permit issued by the FMCSA. All hazardous materials must be properly classed, described, packaged, marked, labeled and in condition for shipment as specified by the FMCSA.
Vehicle Maintenance and Inspection: Trucking companies have a responsibility to keep their vehicles in safe operating condition. By law, commercial motor carriers must maintain detailed records of inspection, repairs and maintenance for every vehicle under their control. Drivers should be trained to recognize signs of trouble before they cause an accident. Vehicles with missing or broken parts or accessories should be taken out of service until proper repairs are made.
Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Have an In-Depth Knowledge of Federal Trucking Laws
Federal trucking regulations are intended to prevent truck crashes caused by certain known risk factors. Those who violate these rules may be held liable for damages resulting from a truck accident. To learn about your rights and legal options following a serious or fatal truck crash, call our Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online. Your consultation is always free and because we operate on a contingent fee basis, you pay nothing until we obtain maximum compensation for you.
Our offices are located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie and Towson, allowing us to represent injured truck accident victims and their families throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood and Elkridge.