Drivers of commercial vehicles are required to follow the same rules of the road as all other motorists. This includes stopping at stop signs, yielding when appropriate, and refraining from using their cell phones while driving.
However, there are additional, specialized laws that control the maximum weight of a truck, the number of hours that a trucker may drive in a week, and how drivers must secure their cargo. Any violation of these rules not only makes an accident more likely but could serve as evidence that the truck driver was at fault for said accident.
Federal trucking regulations exist to protect all people on the road. When truck drivers fail to follow the law and cause an accident, any individual who is injured by this negligence has the right to demand compensation.
The maximum weight for commercial vehicles is strictly regulated by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. This agency is authorized by Congress to pass rules that limit how much a truck and its cargo may weigh.
These weight limits are controlled by the number of axles on the vehicle. For example, a truck with only one rear axle cannot weigh more than 20,000 pounds while travelling on an interstate highway. If the truck has two axles, this maximum weight increases to 34,000 pounds. Greater numbers of axles can carry more weight, but in no case can a truck exceed the maximum allowable weight of 80,000 pounds.
The FHA operates weigh stations on highways throughout Illinois and the rest of the country. If a truck is found to be overweight, the FHA has the ability to impound that vehicle, as an overweight truck potentially presents great danger to other travelers on the road. Such a heavy vehicle would be slower to react to emergencies and may jackknife if a sudden stop is needed.
Another major source of truck accidents is fatigued drivers. In recognition of this problem, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) instituted a new rule in 2013 limiting the number of hours in a week that a truck driver may operate their vehicle to 70. In addition, truckers must take at least one half-hour break for every eight hours of driving.
Finally, truckers are also prohibited from driving more than 11 hours in one 14-hour work day. Driver fatigue can lead to operators becoming distracted while on the road or even falling asleep behind the wheel, which can obviously have a devastating impact on other drivers.
Federal rules also govern how cargo must be secured inside of a commercial truck. However, these rules apply only to cargo that has a solid shape or form. As a result, cargo such as gravel or sand cannot meet these standards.
According to the FMCSA, cargo must be secured so that it is capable of withstanding the forces placed upon it during turns, acceleration, and stops. In all cases, cargo must be able to withstand at least 0.5 g of acceleration in any direction. A failure to properly secure cargo can make a truck unbalanced, possibly causing it to tip over.
The Department of Transportation and its sub-agencies create and enforce strict laws pertaining to the maintenance and operation of commercial vehicles. Specifically, the rules concerning maximum weight, length of driving time, and the securing of cargo are essential to protecting the lives of everyone on the road.
Any violation of these rules can cause a severe accident. As a result, not only would the trucking company face a federal investigation for a violation of the law, but courts may assume that the truck driver was negligent in causing an accident.
A qualified attorney could help you better understand federal trucking regulations and how they may affect your personal injury case. Contact a lawyer today to schedule a consultation.