Illinois Truck Accident Lawyers and attorneys involved in truck accident litigation nationwide must have a firm understanding of the various applicable state and Federal Trucking Regulations. The federal regulations appear in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (49 C.F.R. §§ 350-399).
The federal regulations govern all vehicles involved in interstate traffic. These regulations are extensive and often confusing, especially to a novice attorney. An experienced truck accident lawyer can navigate through these regulations and explain how they apply to your truck accident case.
The following summarizes key provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations most common in truck accident litigation:
49 C.F.R. § 382 – Controlled Substances and Alcohol Use and Testing
The purpose of this section is to establish programs to prevent accidents and injuries resulting from the misuse of alcohol or use of controlled substances by drivers of commercial motor vehicles, including truck drivers. This provision applies to all drivers of commercial vehicles in the US and their employers, with some limited exceptions. Drivers who are required to have a commercial drivers license (CDL) under Section 383, which includes truck drivers, must be tested if they drive a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, has a gross vehicle range of over 26,000 pounds, is designed to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or is used to carry hazardous materials.
49 C.F.R. § 383 – Commercial Driver’s License Standards; Requirements and Penalties
By requiring drivers of certain vehicles to obtain a commercial drivers license (CDL), this provision aims to reduce or prevent truck accidents. Generally, drivers must have a CDL if they drive a vehicle of more than 26,000 pounds, transport themselves and 15 or more passengers or carry hazardous materials. Therefore, most truck drivers must carry a valid CDL and receive appropriate training regarding the safe operation of their vehicles.
49 C.F.R. § 391 – Qualification of Drivers
Tractor-trailer drivers or drivers or other commercial vehicle weighing over 10,000 pounds, carrying 16 or more passengers or transporting hazardous materials must comply with additional regulations. Such drivers must be at least 21 years old, speak English, be physically able to safely operate a truck, have a valid CDL and must not have been disqualified for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, committing a felony, leaving the scene of an accident, refusing to take an alcohol test or any other reason.
49 C.F.R. § 392 – Driving of Commercial Motor Vehicles
Truck drivers, as well as the trucking company responsible for the management, maintenance, operation or driving of any commercial motor vehicles or the hiring, supervision, training or dispatching of drivers must comply with federal regulations. Drivers may not drive while sick or tired and may not use illegal drugs, must obey traffic laws, load cargo safely, perform periodic inspections and drive cautiously in hazardous conditions.
49 C.F.R. § 393 – Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation
The purpose of this section is to ensure that trucks driven on interstate roads are safe. Specific regulations pertain to lighting devices and reflectors, brakes and brake performance, tires, emergency equipment, shifting or falling cargo, securement systems, frames, doors, hood, seats, bumpers, wheels and steering wheel systems.
49 C.F.R. § 395 – Hours of Service of Drivers
The Hours-of-Service regulations put limits in place for when and how long commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers may drive. A driver may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty, and off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period. Further, a driver may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty, and may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty. Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.
The term, “On-Duty” is broadly defined to include the time a driver begins to work until the driver is relieved of all responsibility, including:
- Time at a plant, terminal or other facility of a motor carrier or shipper
- Time inspecting or servicing the truck
- Driving time
- All non-driving time in the truck (except for time resting in the sleeper)
- Time repairing the vehicle or obtaining help to repair it
- Time spent providing a drug test, including travel time
- Time performing any work for a common or private motor carrier
- Time spent performing any compensated work for a non-motor carrier business
49 C.F.R. § 396 – Inspection, Repair and Maintenance
Under this section, the motor carrier is responsible for ensuring that all parts are in proper working condition and must maintain repair and inspection records. Drivers must inspect their trucks at the start of each day and report any defects — and may not drive a vehicle that is defective or likely to break down.
49 C.F.R. § 397 – Transportation of Hazardous Materials
These provisions apply to drivers of commercial motor vehicles that transport hazardous materials. They also apply to motor carriers who are involved with transporting hazardous materials and employees of these carriers who perform supervisory duties related to the transportation of hazardous materials. Generally, the driver of a commercial motor vehicle that is carrying explosives cannot leave the vehicle unattended. There are also restrictions about where a driver carrying explosive materials can park, and smoking is not allowed within 25 feet of a truck containing explosives or flammable materials.
In sum, to successfully represent individuals injured in a truck accident or tractor-trailer accident, a personal injury attorney must be well-versed in the Federal Trucking Regulations. To speak with a Top Chicago Truck Accident Lawyer, contact Passen & Powell at (312) 527-4500.