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How Can Trucking Companies Improve Safety and Avoid Being Sued?

How Trucking Companies Can Improve Safety and Avoid Being Sued

While our firm takes on trucking companies often when their mistakes result in someone getting hurt, we recognize the vital role they perform in transporting essential goods across the country. While the vast majority of truck drivers behave appropriately and responsibly on the road, those that don't can cause significant injury or even death to other motorists in crashes. Because of the inherent risk to the public resulting from their greater size and weight compared to passenger cars, commercial transportation companies are subject to strict federal regulations.

While complying with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations can be time-consuming and expensive, the alternative for trucking companies can be far worse. If a plaintiff is able to prove a trucking company was in violation of a federal requirement, and that violation resulted in an accident that resulted in an injury or fatality, the compensation awarded by the court could be crippling to that company.

There are a host of actions the government requires of trucking companies that, when complied with, will prevent many truck accidents. Additionally, there are protective measures the trucking company can take of their own free will to be even more effective in regard to ensuring the safety of the public. It is in the best interests of a trucking company to follow federal regulations to the letter, as these regulations are in place to make the roads safer for everyone.

Questions answered in this article:

  • What rules and regulations apply to truck drivers?
  • What kind of licenses are truck drivers required to have?
  • Why should I hire an attorney?
  • What types of inspections do truck drivers do on their trucks?
  • Are there qualifications for being a truck driving?

Key DOT/FMCSA regulations

The sheer volume of regulations in the trucking industry makes it impossible to outline all of them in this article. The following is a list of some of the most significant pieces of federal regulation that have a major impact on trucking safety.

Yearly/Random Drug Tests - The FMCSA mandates that many commercial truck drivers be tested for alcohol and drugs on both a scheduled and random basis. Federal regulations mandate that testing be performed for the following drugs: amphetamines, cocaine, crack, opiates, marijuana and phencyclidine, more commonly referred to as PCP.

If a driver tests positive for any of the drugs mentioned above, or is found to have a blood alcohol content level of .02 percent or higher, then he or she is to be barred from driving a commercial truck or performing any other functions that are deemed "safety-sensitive" for at least 24 hours. Until that driver undergoes further testing, he or she will not be allowed to return to work. Drivers must also submit to mandatory drug testing before being hired.

If an employer has a reasonable suspicion that a driver is using alcohol or drugs on the job, that employer is allowed to administer a drug test. The DOT also requires that a certain percentage of a company's truck drivers be randomly tested for drugs and alcohol every four months.

Ensuring Drivers Have CDLs - Federal law mandates that trucking companies that operate commercial motor vehicles ensure each of their drivers has a commercial driver's license, or CDL. Each driver has to have a CDL appropriate for the class of vehicle that he or she is driving. In order to maintain that license, a driver must also undergo a physical on a regular basis. Carriers are expected to have a method in place of tracking when a driver's CDL expires.

Cell Phone/Texting Ban - The DOT banned the use of hand-held cell phones by interstate truck drivers on Jan. 3, 2012, following up its ban on texting while driving that was enacted on Jan. 26, 2010. One of the most dangerous things a driver can do is to talk or text while driving. Even the slightest distraction, one lasting mere seconds, could cause a devastating accident.

Texting and driving outlawed for truck drivers as it leads to distracted driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2009, 5,474 people died due to accidents involving distracted drivers, and nearly a half million more were injured.Truck drivers who violate the ban, can be fined up to $2,750 fine for each offense. Drivers who violate the ban two or more times run the risk of losing their CDL.

Auditing Driver's Logs - TxDOT restricts the number of hours that a truck driver can remain behind the wheel. A driver can operate his rig for a maximum of 14 hours in a single day, and has to take a 30-minute rest break after being on the road for eight consecutive hours. A driver is also not allowed to drive more than 70 hours per seven days. Regulations also mandate that drivers maintain logs that keep track of their driving time, off-duty time and sleep. This is one of the most critical mandates in regard to trucker safety, because fatigued driving is one of the most common causes of trucking accidents.

There are several software products on the market that can track driving activity, so that trucking companies can make sure they are in compliance with this critically important regulation.

Vehicle Inspections - Trucking companies are required to regularly inspect their vehicles to make sure they are mechanically sound. If a truck is under a company's control for 30 consecutive days or more, the DOT requires that the carrier to be able to show that the vehicle is inspected and maintained on a regular basis. Trucking companies are required to have a vehicle maintenance file on all of their rigs that shows the records of all repairs, inspections, and maintenance actions performed.

Simple mistakes can be avoided by putting forth just a little bit of additional effort. For instance, many accidents are caused by wheels coming completely loose from an 18-wheeler. One simple solution for this particular problem is to use a paint marker and paint a torque stripe on each lug nut where it meets the wheel. If a lug nut becomes loosened due to vibration or other factors, then the paint on the lug nut will not line up with the paint on the wheel, and the driver can quickly detect a problem at a glance.

Pre-Employment Verification/Screening/Requirements for Employment - Before a driver can be hired, the trucking company must obtain a background check and obtain a driving history report. The company must also monitor the performance of that driver for both accidents and traffic offenses. And, as stated previously, the FMCSA requires that drivers pass both alcohol and drug tests before they can qualify to receive a CDL.

Our Truck Accident Attorneys Can Help

A trucking company can be forced to pay dearly if an accident involving one of its rigs results from the violation of a federal mandate. If you have been injured in this type of accident, please call Grossman Law Offices at (855) 326-0000 (toll free) for a confidential and free consultation.

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