Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and Their Impact on You in the Event of An Accident

  • By:David Bate

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Authority is the regulatory and enforcement agency that sets standards for the trucking industry country wide.  While most states also have their own set of rules and guidelines, the federal regulations are always in place as the minimum standard that must be met.  Failing to follow these rules may create automatic liability for a driver in the event of an accident.

Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports

Section 396.11 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require that vehicle drivers complete a daily written inspection report at the end of each day.  In this report, the driver will document any defects to the vehicle as well as certify how, where and by whom repairs are done.  These records must be maintained for at least three months by the operator or owner of the vehicle.  In the event of an accident your attorney will likely request these reports as they may contain important details regarding vehicle maintenance and whether the driver was conducting the required daily inspection.

Insurance Requirements

The regulations also require that owners of trucks maintain insurance.  The insurance must be with a licensed and approved agency and meet certain minimum requirements.  In addition, proof of this insurance must be filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Agency.  This information is vital in case of an accident as it can provide the identity of the carrier as well as the limits to any insurance policy.

Limits on Hours Driven

Various Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations put limits on the amount of time a driver is allowed to operate a truck.  Limits on consecutive hours driven, as well as minimum time between hours driven, are put in place to prevent overly fatigued drivers from endangering the public.  Your attorney will want to inspect a driver’s operating logs to determine if they were in violation of the driving time limits.  If this is the case, the driver or operator of the truck may be presumed to have been unfit to operate a vehicle creating a strong case for de facto fault.

Licensing Requirements

Perhaps one of the largest requirements of the regulations are the requirements for driver licensing.  Certain minimum prescribed courses and tests are required for everyone who is operating a commercial vehicle.  These requirements ensure all drivers have received common background training on safety and other issues.  If a semi truck accident lawyer Atlanta GA relies on discovers that the truck driver in your accident did not maintain proper licensure it could amount to proof that they were unfit to be behind the wheel of a truck.

Cell Phone Usage

While a fairly recent rule, cell phone usage by drivers while operating a truck is strictly prohibited under the FMCSA regulations.  The regulations further state that drivers cannot hold a phone while driving or use a phone to dial while driving.  Drivers are allowed to use hands free devices.  Your attorney may ask for phone records of the truck driver in your accident.  If the operator was on the phone at the time of the crash, this may prove they were distracted and more likely to be at fault in the accident.

If you have been involved in an accident with a truck, in addition to proving outright fault the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations can play a vital role in establishing legal liability.  Violation of these rules may trigger a presumption of fault on the part of the truck driver.  Failure to adhere can also help bolster an argument that a truck driver was acting poorly.  If you have questions regarding the above specific regulations or the Federal guidelines overall, do not hesitate to speak to legal counsel who can help protect your rights in the event of a crash with a truck.

Butler TobinThanks to our friends and contributors from Butler Tobin for their insight into truck accident cases.

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