While commercial trucks provide a tremendous benefit to society by transporting goods across the country in an efficient manner, driving them can nonetheless be a risky proposition. Because, on average, they tend to weigh twenty to thirty times more than a standard passenger vehicle, grave injuries can result from a collision. Due to this reason and many others, there are a number of rules and regulation that govern the operation of large trucks and other types of commercial vehicles.
In fact, because of the risk that results from driving these types of vehicles, the federal government has chose to regulate nearly every component related to their operation. Some of the regulations are related to ensuring the safety of other vehicles and drivers who are on the road with commercial vehicles. These regulations are in place because of the disastrous consequences that could occur were they to be violated. Other violations are in place to ensure that a truck that is on the road is actually safe and in good condition. Some of these rules and regulations are detailed below.
Regulations Relating to Hours of Service
This regulation is in place to limit the number of hours that the driver of a commercial vehicle is permitted to be behind the wheel within a certain period of time. Violating this regulation can result in serious injuries, as tired drivers have a poor reaction time and are prone to fall asleep at the wheel. When this occurs, accidents can occur because it takes a lot longer to correct and stop a commercial vehicle than it does a car or truck that is much smaller.
An example of this is the regulation that states commercial truck drivers can only drive a maximum of eleven hours each day. This is only after having a minimum of ten consecutive hours of not driving on duty. This regulation is in place across the country in an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related accidents involving commercial trucks. Sadly, all too many violations of this policy occur every year, resulting in some of the following issues:
- Reaction time being delayed
- Judgement becoming impaired
- Waning levels of concentration
Another regulation related to this is that commercial truck drivers are required to maintain a detailed and accurate log book. These books are used by authorities to determine if this regulation relating to hours of service are being followed. If an accident occurs, the log book will become a key piece of evidence. Because of this, it is one of the first things that a personal injury attorney will look at when determining the merits of a possible claim against the truck driver and company.
Inspections Made Pre-Trip
Before a commercial truck can even be driven, the driver is required to conduct an inspection prior to each and every trip. During this inspection, the driver will be looking for any potential safety issues that might cause an issue when the truck is driven on the open road. The following items are to be included in every pre-trip inspection:
- Coupler device
- Fluid levels
- Windshield wipers and washers
If the inspection finds that any of the items are not working properly, each component that failed must be fixed before the trip can get underway. This is because the items contained in the mandatory pre-trip inspection are deemed to be vital to the safe operation of a commercial truck. If any of them are not working properly, a serious accident could result.
Requirements Related to the Truck’s Ability to Be Seen
In order to be driven safely, commercial trucks must be visible at all times of the day and night. Because of this, there are federal regulations in place that deal with conspicuity. In essence, this requires reflective materials and lights to be placed in certain locations across the trailer or truck. The philosophy behind this is that other motorists on the road can have a difficult time seeing a truck absent this reflective material. This becomes particularly important in rural areas where roads are not well lit at night. Lights are also important in adverse weather conditions where visibility becomes significantly reduced.
Any driver who is in an accident with a commercial truck that was lacking reflective material and lights should definitely consult with an attorney. If a truck is found to be in violation of the federal requirements regulating conspicuity, the company or driver could be deemed responsible for the accident, even if you are the one the was directly responsible for the impact. Not all accidents involving a commercial vehicle are due to driver error. Remember that a violation of these federal regulations is often a determining factor in fault.
Negligence and Violations of Federal Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations manual is where one would find most of the federal regulations that govern the operation of commercial trucks and vehicles. This is the law, and negligence related to a failure to abide by these regulations can result in serious consequences. The legal terminology for this is negligence per se, which basically means that a driver or trucking company has violated the law if a court determines that negligence was involved. To establish this, evidence will need to be gathered after an accident. The examples contained in this post point to just how serious this matter is. Accidents caused by large trucks can result in serious injury and death.
If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, it is time to have a consultation with an experienced, professional attorney in your area. Your attorney will work quickly to gather any evidence related to the accident and work in conjunction with the police to determine if negligence was a factor. This will impact any future settlement that you receive, in addition to having an attorney represent you in court if a settlement cannot be reached.