5 FMCSA Regulations You Should Know if You Were in a Trucking Accident

If you know anyone who has ever been in an accident involving a large truck, you may already know that the claim filing process is much more complicated than it would be for a typical car crash. Trucking companies can legally delete evidence after a certain period of time, and, since large-scale accidents like these tend to be very costly, commercial truck insurance providers are incentivized to reduce your settlement as much as they can get away with.

However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a government agency that establishes safety standards for commercial motor vehicles, enforces a long list of regulations that their trucks and employees are required to follow. Violating these rules can get a trucking company into a whirlwind of legal trouble and turn the tides of a personal injury lawsuit in your favor, so here are five of the most essential FMCSA regulations you should know if you are ever involved in a trucking accident.

1. The statute of limitations for personal injury is normally 2-3 years, but you may only have 6 months to act.

According to the FMCSA, a motor carrier (trucking company, bus company, etc.) must keep employee driving records and any supporting documents for six months after the records were created. After those six months have passed, trucking companies are permitted to delete the old driving records, which could contain valuable information about your trucking injury case. 

This is why so many trucking injury cases fall apart, because trucking companies have the right to destroy evidence as long as they first hold onto it for at least six months. In rarer cases, a motor carrier may even secretly delete records sooner than required to avoid liability. To prevent driving records with incriminating information from being deleted, your attorney can send what’s known as a spoliation letter, which forces the motor carrier to preserve all relevant evidence related to your case.

2. Drivers complying with FMCSA can’t drive for longer than 10-11 hours a day.

In order to keep the roads safer and prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel, the FMCSA sets strict limits on how long commercial motorists are able to work, known as the Hours of Service (HOS). If the truck driver involved in your accident did not follow one of these scheduling guidelines, you may have a better chance at proving liability in court:

  • Drivers carrying cargo are only allowed to drive for 11 hours a day within a 14-hour period, and they must receive 10 hours off-duty between each driving shift.

  • Drivers carrying passengers must drive no more than 10 hours a day within a 15-hour period, and they must receive 8 hours off-duty between each driving shift.

  • Drivers cannot drive for longer than 8 hours at a time without taking a 30-minute break.

  • Drivers who have been on the road for either 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days (depending on the motor carrier) must be off-duty for at least 34 hours before driving again.

There are certain exceptions for these regulations for short hauls, adverse weather conditions, and other occurrences. To view these exceptions, check out the Summary of Hours of Service Regulations table provided on the FMCSA website.

3. Commercial vehicles must always abide by the state axle weight limit and secure cargo properly.

This is easily one of the most common causes of trucking accidents in the US. Every state has different weight limits for single, double, and tri-axle vehicles, as well as a limit for gross weight, including cargo and trailer weight. However, even with so many regulations on the federal, state, and municipal level, trucking companies will still sometimes overlook weight limits to save time and maximize profits.

Failing to ensure that any cargo is tightly fastened with the necessary amount of straps, chains, tarps, chocks, wedges, and other tools can also lead to an FMCSA violation. Loose freight can fall off, and poorly-placed cargo can be an obstructional hazard for other drivers. 

4. Truck drivers must thoroughly inspect their vehicles and provide reports twice a day.

Trucks and buses are highly complicated machinery, with many more moving parts than the average passenger vehicle. Failing to fully check that essential functions are working properly, such as brakes, tires, turn signals, steering, lights, and other components, can result in an FMCSA violation. Furthermore, inspection errors tend to cause particularly dangerous accidents due to serious problems like brake failure and power steering malfunctions.

5. Motorists must pass strict drug tests and cannot exceed .04% of blood alcohol content.

In the United States, amphetamine use in the trucking industry is rampant, and usage of both cocaine and marijuana has also significantly increased. Not only that, but truckers in the United States drink on the job more than anywhere else in the world, according to the American Addiction Centers. It’s evident that the American trucking industry has a problem with drugs, even though drivers are put through rigorous testing. 

Following an accident, most truck drivers are instructed to take both an alcohol and a drug test. Random testing must also be performed by a motor carrier. Drivers who previously tested positive must also pass a return-to-duty test and then multiple follow-up tests within the next 12 months. The FMCSA is incredibly stringent with its drug and alcohol guidelines, and a truck accident caused by substance abuse will likely result in the plaintiff’s favor.

Keep in mind that a CMV driver is held to a higher alcohol standard and cannot reach a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of over .04%. That’s only half of the legal limit for a standard passenger driver, which is .08%.

Were you or an immediate family member involved in a trucking accident? Don’t let trucking insurance companies bully you into accepting less than you deserve. Let our team help you fight for fair compensation— see if you qualify for a free case review today.