Due to their size, challenge to operate, and materials they transport, commercial trucks can pose a significant safety risk to the general public. As a result, commercial vehicles which meet certain criteria are heavily regulated to help reduce the number of car and truck accidents and the risk they pose to the public. If you were injured in a truck accident in Salem, Peabody, Danvers, Beverly, Lynn, Topsfield, Ipswich, or anywhere else in Massachusetts, you may be wondering about regulations and what type of claim to pursue.
What Is A Commercial Truck?
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) regulates commercial vehicles defined in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as any self-propelled or towed vehicle used on public highways to transport passengers or property in commerce. The types of commercial vehicles governed by the FMCSA include:
Weight: When a vehicle has a gross weight over 10,000 pounds. This figure is stamped on the vehicle identification number.
Passengers: When the vehicle is designed to transport more than 15 passengers including the driver.
Hazardous material: When the vehicle is used to transport hazardous material.
What Federal Regulations Apply to Commercial Trucks?
In addition to obeying the rules of the road applicable to anyone who operates a motor vehicle, commercial drivers must comply with a number federal regulations. Some of the federal regulations include:
- Driver qualifications such as proper commercial driver’s license (CDL);
In order to obtain a CDL, a driver must pass a knowledge and skills test. The knowledge test covers various federal regulations and safety issues. The skills test includes tests for pre-trip vehicle inspections, basic vehicle control, and an on-road test.
Driver qualification file including medical examiner’s certificate, annual reviews, his application for employments, and any citations for motor vehicle violations. (49 CFR 391)
- The driver’s hours of service are limited.
The driver must keep a logbook documenting, among other things, the hours they drive each day. Some drivers are exempt from this rule, however, records must be kept which evidence that they do not exceed limitations concerning the hours or days driven.
- Records of accidents must be maintained. (39 CFR 395)
Driver must conduct Pre-Trip and Post-Trip inspections of the vehicle, its parts and accessories to make sure that the vehicle is safe to drive. Some of the parts and accessories that must be inspected include emergency equipment, brakes, lights, tires, cargo securement devices, horn and mirrors. Any vehicle that has safety deficiencies must be taken off the road until the deficiencies are repaired.
- The vehicle must be inspected annually.
Drivers must undergo a medical exam and obtain a medical certificate that they are fit to drive. This must be in the driver’s possession when they are driving.
- Drivers are not allowed to use handheld telephones while driving the vehicle.
Drivers are subject to alcohol and drug testing.
- Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing (49 CFR Part 382)
- General Applicability and Definitions/General Requirements and Information (49 CFR Part 390)
- Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation (49 CFR Part 393)
- Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance (49 CFR Part 396)
All states are connected to one computerized system which allows them access to information about CDL drivers.
Massachusetts Exceptions to the FMCSA Regulations
- The 21 year age requirement;
- The ability to read and speak the English language;
- The road test requirements contained in CFR 49 §391; and
- The requirements for waivers of certain physical defects contained in CFR 49 §391.
These exceptions apply to drivers of commercial vehicles who only drive within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Who Do The Regulations Apply To
The purpose of the regulations is to cover everyone involved in the operation of commercial vehicles including:
- The owner of the truck;
- The company that maintains and repairs the truck;
- The company that loads the truck;
- The company that hired the driver;
- The company that trained the driver; and
- The dispatcher.
Do FMCSA Regulations Apply to the Government
As a general rule, governmental entities are exempt from federal regulations, however, they are subject to a few regulations including driver qualifications and alcohol and drug testing.
Evidence of Negligence
The violation of a safety regulation is evidence of negligence on the part of the violator as to all consequences that the regulations were designed to prevent.
Causes of Truck Accidents
Some of the common causes of truck accidents are speeding, aggressive driving, driver fatigue, poorly trained drivers, following too closely, improperly balanced loads, equipment failure, slippery surfaces, tight turns, unsecured loads, impaired drivers (drug or alcohol), failure to inspect and inadequate safety devices.
Car and Truck Accident Claims
Some of the different types of truck and car accident claims you may pursue are bodily injury claims, PIP claims, Underinsured claims, and Uninsured claims.
Free Personal Injury Consultation
If you were injured in a truck accident, contact Attorney Bob Allison now for a free consultation by calling 978-740-9433 or filling out our free consultation form. We look forward to talking to you about your Massachusetts personal injury claim.