Laws and Regulations

Trucking Laws and Regulations in Texas

On January 1, 2000, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established as a separate entity within the U.S. Department of Transportation to regulate the trucking industry within the United States. The congressional objective of the newly formed FMCSA was to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. Since its inception, the FMCSA has promulgated rules to accomplish this purpose. When you are involved in a commercial vehicle accident, it is critical to determine if the driver or company violated established rules when determining liability.

Contact us online or call us at (281) 801-5617 to learn how violations of Texas trucking laws and regulations can lead to liability for an accident. 

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Trucking Standards

The FMCSA sets forth the minimum requirements that trucking companies engaged in interstate commerce must follow. Interstate commerce is the movement of goods or services between states. A trucking company is involved in interstate commerce “when the intent of the transportation being performed is interstate in nature.” This is a very broad definition and covers almost all transportation companies.

Under the FMCSA, motor carriers must register with the FMCSA, obtain a U.S. Department of Transportation number, receive a Motor Carrier number, file an identification report with the FMCSA, and comply with all safety, fitness, and financial requirements set out in law.

Some of these requirements include the following:

  • Maintain minimum liability insurance of $750,000
  • Maintain a registered agent in the state
  • Drivers must carry a commercial driver’s license
  • Drivers must be 21 years of age or older
  • Drivers must comply with federal driving limits and report their driving time
  • Drivers must inspect their vehicles daily and report any identifiable issues
  • Drivers must permit federal inspection of the vehicle
  • Drivers must take drug and alcohol tests after certain accidents

The purpose of these rules is to protect the motoring public from preventable crashes. A company or driver that does not adhere to these rules and is involved in a preventable accident risks financial responsibility for their negligence.

Hours Of Service Violations

Hours-of-service regulations govern how many consecutive and total hours a commercial vehicle operator may drive in a given period. They also mandate breaks, including the frequency and duration of these breaks, that truck drivers must take to help prevent truck driver fatigue.

Unfortunately, truck drivers do not always follow hours-of-service rules. Whether due to pressure from their employers or as a result of trucking companies paying drivers by the mile or per load, truck drivers may choose to violate hours-of-service regulations. This leads to fatigued truck drivers or those who turn to alcohol or drugs to remain awake for long periods, which can lead to serious truck accidents. All too often, these accidents have disastrous and even deadly consequences for other motorists.

Hours-of-service laws apply to most commercial vehicle operators who transport either cargo or passengers, such as 18-wheelers, delivery trucks, buses, and trains.

While these regulations vary somewhat depending on the type of vehicle involved, they are generally as follows:

  • Cargo-carrying drivers may not operate a vehicle for more than 11 hours after at least 10 consecutive hours off duty
  • No cargo-carrying vehicle operator may drive his/her vehicle more than 14 consecutive hours once on duty after being off duty for 10 consecutive hours
  • Cargo-carrying drivers are prohibited from driving more than 60/70 hours in 7/8 consecutive days; consecutive day periods restart after at least 34 consecutive off-duty hours
  • Cargo-carrying drivers may only operate their vehicle if no more than 8 hours have passed since his/her last 30-minute sleeper berth break or off-duty period (with exceptions)
  • The purpose of these regulations is to prevent truck driver fatigue, which can be as dangerous as impaired or intoxicated driving.

How To Tell If A Truck Driver Violated Hours-Of-Service Laws

Fatigued truck drivers will often exhibit signs similar to those of someone driving while impaired or intoxicated.

Some indications that a truck driver is driving while fatigued include:

  • Drifting across lanes
  • Uneven driving speeds
  • Slow reaction times
  • Sudden jerking movements of the vehicle
  • Failure to use turn signals
  • Running red lights/stop signs

If you notice a truck driver engaging in any of these behaviors, steer clear. Give the truck driver a wide berth and, if necessary, contact local law enforcement to report the fatigued driver.

The best way to determine whether a truck driver violated hours-of-service regulations, however, is to examine the driver’s logbook. Truck drivers are required to record all events, including scheduled breaks and sleeper berth periods, in a logbook which they must keep in the vehicle.

Texas Commercial Driver’s License Requirements

The Federal government requires drivers of all commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to hold a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in compliance with state law. A vehicle is commercial when a company registers the vehicle to transport products or passengers. A CDL requires the applicant to possess specialized skills and training. An individual wishing to obtain a CDL in Texas must have a clean driving record. To drive intrastate (within Texas state lines only), the applicant must be 18 years old. Those wishing to drive interstate (across state and international borders) must be 21 years of age. Once an applicant has met these basic requirements, they must pass a written test, where they will receive a Commercial Driver’s Permit (CLP). This permit allows the applicant to practice driving under the supervision of a CDL holder for at least 14 days. After training, applicants can take the CDL skills exam and receive a license.

In addition to having a CDL, Texas truckers who want to drive interstate must be:

  • A Texas resident
  • 21 years of age
  • Able to read and speak English
  • Free of any drug or alcohol addiction

Texas commercial drivers who wish to drive in Texas only must have a CDL and be:

  • A Texas resident
  • 18 years of age
  • Meet any state mental and physical requirements in addition to the Federal fitness requirements outlined above

These requirements are by no means inclusive. Other laws may apply depending on the situation.

Texas DOT Weight Regulations

The laws that govern weight limits for commercial vehicles are found in Texas Transportation Code Chapter 621 and Section 219 of The Texas Administrative Code. The maximum gross weight of a truck and cargo on state roads is 80,000 pounds.

Once the cargo is loaded, the driver is responsible for inspecting the load, ensuring the load is properly distributed and secured, knowing the weight of the load, and ensuring that the truck is not overloaded. Under the TxDOT weight regulations, truckers are required to know the following:

  • Their gross vehicle weight rating.
  • The gross combination weight rating
  • Axle weight
  • Tire load; and
  • Coupling device capacity

Accidents Caused by Violations of Texas Trucking Rules and Regulations

Rules and regulations pertaining to commercial vehicle operators and motor carriers are designed to protect the motoring public from serious injuries and death. Failure to comply with these rules puts the lives of the commercial operator and the motoring public at risk. If you were injured in an accident caused by a violation of established rules and regulations, you have a right to bring a lawsuit against the trucking company and driver to recover compensation for your injuries. Our commercial vehicle lawyers are highly experienced in truck accident litigation and can help you obtain justice.

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