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Basic Trucking Laws

Sixty-seven percent of the freight tonnage moved in the US during 2011, was transported via commercial big rigs and semi trucks, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA). The trucking industry is cautiously watching how two new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiatives that are ready to be phased in will affect them. The safety monitoring system known as CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability), and the implementation of new Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations for drivers will pose possible challenges for truck shippers. However, as experienced trucking accident attorneys at the law offices of Gordon Elias & Seely, L.L.P. , we applaud regulations that will make the trucking industry safer for motorists who have to the country’s roadways with big rig, 18 wheelers commercial trucks.

The CSA uses a process called the Safety Measurement System (SMS) to help them identify carriers that might need intervention by using data collected from roadside inspections, US state crash reports, and the federal motor carrier census. By assigning points for deficiencies in seven categories to a specific trucking carrier, and then comparing that carrier's points to others in a peer group, the FMCSA is able to assign a percentile score. The best possible score is zero; the worst is 100. If a trucking company scores higher than the threshold for a BASIC category, the carrier then merits further investigation from the FMCSA. The Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) are:

  1. Fatigued Drivers (including Hours-of-Service violations
  2. Unsafe Driving
  3. Driver Fitness
  4. Vehicle Maintenance
  5. Controlled Substances/alcohol
  6. Frequency and Severity of Crashes
  7. Cargo-related (such as shifting loads, overloading, and improper handling of hazardous materials) issues

FMCSA published a new version of its rules in December 2011, governing commercial vehicle drivers' working hours, with the actual HOS rules taking effect on Feb. 27, 2012. All commercial trucking carriers Trucking companies must complete the transition to all the new HOS rules by July 1, 2013. Within the trucking industries, some say the new rules will force shippers and drivers to change schedules, and / or cause truckers to buy more trucks in order to do the same amount of work they did under the old rules. The trucking industry is not happy with all the changes since it impacts their bottom line. Nevertheless, the trucking industry needs to be regulated and safety is a major concern. Some notable changes to the old HOS rules include:

  1. Commercial truck drivers may be on duty (either driving or doing other work) no more than 70 hours in a seven-day period. Under the old rules, the limit was 82 hours.
  2. After driving for eight hours, a commercial truck driver may not drive again without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes.
  3. The regulation requiring that once drivers have worked the maximum number of hours for a week, they must go off duty for at least 34 hours still is in effect. However, the "restart" must include two periods that run from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Individual Trucking Laws

Each state in the country has its own set of trucking laws that trucking companies in that state have to follow when they operate their vehicles. These companies must also follow the laws set forth by other states that their trucks travel through, even if they are located in a certain state. Aside from individual state laws, the federal government has also set forth federal truck laws to protect truck drivers, trucking companies, and other motorists from unsafe conditions. Along with the 50 states, the District of Columbia also has its own trucking laws to go along with the federal laws handed down by the federal government.

Federal Trucking Laws

The 11 most important federal trucking laws are as follows:

  1. Commercial Driver’s License Standard; Requirements and Penalties which includes various safety training programs on topics including size and weight enforcement of commercial trucks, drug enforcement, traffic safety
  2. Commercial Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program
  3. Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing which includes detailed rules regarding substances and alcohol testing and DUI penalties for truck drivers
  4. Driving of Commercial Motor Vehicles
  5. Qualifications of Drivers which includes testing and licensing procedures, driver disqualifications, employer’s responsibilities, and required knowledge and skills to drive commercial trucks.
  6. Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation
  7. Transportation of Hazardous Materials; Drivingand Parking Rules
  8. Hours of Service of Drivers includes the maximum hours allowed, the need for ta detailed truck drivers log that must be maintain to record their actions, or change of status.
  9. Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance refers to the truck driver’s required pre-trip check of his truck to ensure it is maintained in a safe and proper operating condition.
  10. Employee Safety and Health Standards
  11. Transportation of Migrant Workers including sections on non-residents.

The full details of these these federal trucking laws are found on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website.

The Commercial Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program

This law was created to make sure that individual states develop and implement programs that improve motor carrier, CMV, and driver safety. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also establishes a safer and much more efficient transportation system.

Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing

This law requires all drivers to have a commercial driver’s license and to be tested, if they drive a vehicle:

  • Weighing more than 26,000 pounds including a towed unit weighing more than 10,000 pounds,
  • Having a gross vehicle rating of more than 26,000 pounds,
  • Designed to transport 16 or more passengers including the driver, or
  • Used to transport hazardous materials requiring the vehicle to be placarded

 If you or a loved one has been in a trucking accident contact Gordon Elias & Seely, L.L.P. and speak with a knowledgeable lawyer who will discuss your legal options with you. Call TOLL FREE at: 800 - 773 - 6770.

The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice. If you need help with a Truck Accident claim, consult an experienced trucking accident attorney from the law offices of Gordon Elias & Seely, L.L.P. by calling TOLL FREE: 800 - 773 - 6770 OR by filling out the Free Case Evaluation Form on this page.
Gordon, Elias & Seely, L.L.P.
1811 Bering Drive, Suite 300     Houston, TX 77057     Toll Free: 1-800-773-6770     Fax: 713-668-1980