Overview of Federal Regulations That Aim To Prevent Truck Accidents

By Osborne & Francis
May 12, 2024

There were more than 32,000 crashes involving commercial trucks in Florida in 2021, leading to 28 deaths and 124 incapacitating injuries. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established stringent rules in an effort to prevent truck accidents and safeguard everyone on the road. You’ll learn more about these rules in this article and why they’re so important.

However, trucking companies and drivers often ignore these rules, causing devastating accidents. If you’ve suffered an injury or lost a loved one in a truck accident caused by someone else’s negligence, Osborne & Francis will be ready to help. Call 561-293-2600 or contact us online to learn how we can help you obtain maximum compensation.

Regulation #1: Hours of Operation

Operating a commercial truck for a long time without proper rest can lead to dangerous fatigue levels. The FMCSA recognizes this risk and has established regulations limiting the hours a truck driver can operate before taking a mandatory rest break. These rules are collectively known as Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. Here’s a quick look at just a few of them.

  • Drivers can only be behind the wheel for a maximum of 11 straight hours. They can only do this after 10 straight hours off duty.
  • If a trucker drives for eight hours (consecutively or cumulatively), they must take an interrupted break of at least 30 minutes.
  • Drivers can’t operate commercial trucks for more than 60 hours over seven consecutive days. They also can’t drive more than 70 hours over eight straight days.

Fatigued drivers have reduced reaction times, impaired decision-making abilities, and compromised situational awareness. By setting strict limits on driving hours and mandatory rest periods, FMCSA aims to ensure truck drivers are well-rested and alert while operating their vehicles. This safeguards the driver's well-being and reduces the likelihood of accidents resulting from drowsy driving.

Regulation #2: Weight and Size Limits

Overloading a truck beyond its weight and size limits can have severe consequences. It strains the vehicle's braking system, potentially leading to brake failures that compromise the driver's ability to stop quickly. An overloaded truck can also become difficult to control, resulting in a potentially deadly rollover accident.

Federal law mandates that trucks can weigh no more than 80,000 pounds. They can be no wider than 96 inches. These regulations help maintain proper braking performance, maneuverability, and overall vehicle stability, reducing the potential for accidents caused by overloaded trucks.

Regulation #3: Drug and Alcohol Testing

Operating any vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol is dangerous, but the risks are magnified when driving a large, heavy truck. The FMCSA mandates regular drug and alcohol testing for truck drivers to ensure sobriety. Authorities conduct these tests at various points, including pre-employment, post-accident, and randomly during employment.

Mandatory testing helps create a safer road environment by preventing accidents that could result from impairment.

Regulation #4: Regular Vehicle Inspections

Regular vehicle inspections are an essential aspect of maintaining the safety and functionality of commercial trucks. Worn-out tires, faulty brakes, and other mechanical issues can compromise a truck's ability to operate safely. FMCSA regulations mandate routine inspections, including driver pre-trip inspections and more comprehensive inspections conducted by qualified technicians.

The FMCSA strives to ensure trucks are in optimal condition, reducing the risks associated with mechanical failures. These risks include tire blowouts, brake malfunctions, or other breakdowns that could result in accidents.

Regulation #5: Driver Qualifications

Driving a large commercial truck requires specialized skills and training. FMCSA recognizes the importance of ensuring truck drivers are well-prepared for the challenges they face. The agency sets standards for licensing and training, encompassing both the knowledge of regulations and the practical skills required for safe driving.

To meet FMCSA requirements for traveling between states, drivers must:

  • Be at least 21.
  • Be able to read and speak English well enough to communicate with the public, respond to questions from officials, and understand traffic signals and signs.
  • Have the physical abilities needed to operate a commercial vehicle.
  • Possess a valid license.
  • Pass a road test.
  • Not be disqualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

Adequately trained drivers are more equipped to handle complex maneuvers, make informed decisions, and respond effectively to unexpected situations, ultimately minimizing the risk of accidents.

Regulation #6: Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)

Ensuring truck drivers adhere to HOS regulations is essential for preventing fatigue-related accidents. Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) have revolutionized this aspect of trucking. These devices automatically track a driver's driving hours and rest periods, eliminating the potential for falsified paper logs.

ELDs enhance safety by promoting compliance with HOS regulations. They prevent drivers from exceeding their allowed driving time, which helps prevent accidents caused by fatigue-induced errors. ELDs offer greater accuracy and accountability than traditional paper logs, contributing to safer roadways for all.

Regulation #7: Special Training for Hazardous Materials

Transporting hazardous materials presents unique risks due to the potential for spills, leaks, or even explosions. The FMCSA enforces specialized training and guidelines for drivers who handle hazardous materials to mitigate these risks. This regulation ensures drivers receive adequate training to handle, transport, and respond to hazardous materials incidents.

By providing specialized training, FMCSA aims to prevent accidents that could have catastrophic consequences. Truck drivers transporting hazardous materials must have the knowledge and skills to minimize the risks associated with these potentially dangerous cargo types.

Why These Regulations Are So Important for Keeping All Drivers Safe

FMCSA regulations are vital safeguards that contribute to the safety of everyone on the road. By addressing issues like driver fatigue, proper maintenance, and adherence to rules, these regulations work together to prevent accidents involving semi-trucks. 

Following these rules isn't just about compliance; it's about keeping all drivers safe and ensuring the smooth flow of goods across the country.

Osborne & Francis is Ready to Help You Get the Money You Deserve

If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident, Osborne & Francis is here for you. We have extensive experience in truck accidents and other personal injury cases. Contact us online or call 561-293-2600 for guidance and support in seeking the compensation you deserve. 

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