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.