Commercial vehicles like tractor-trailers are integral to our country's economic and logistical needs, but they can be extremely dangerous if mishandled. That's why the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has many rules and regulations about how to maximize the safety of those vehicle, their drivers, and everyone around them on the road. But who actually enforces those rules?
Answer: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an agency within the DOT specifically dedicated to regulating and overseeing the safety of commercial motor vehicles.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shall be an administration of the Department of Transportation.
In carrying out its duties, the Administration shall consider the assignment and maintenance of safety as the highest priority, recognizing the clear intent, encouragement, and dedication of Congress to the furtherance of the highest degree of safety in motor carrier transportation.49 U.S. Code § 113
What Does the FMCSA Do?
The FMCSA's whole purpose is to promote and oversee the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Most people realize that just about any vehicle can cause serious damage if something goes wrong, and the sheer size of most CMVs increases the chances of that significantly.
The agency monitors and ensures compliance with federal safety regulations to prevent as many of those instances as possible. Sadly not every incident can be prevented, but roadside inspections, on-site audits, enforcement activity, and other regulatory actions have helped keep the roads as safe as possible for the public.
Who's Regulated by the FMCSA?
The FMCSA's regulations primarily relate to motor carriers. What exactly does that term mean? The agency provided this definition:
A motor carrier operates commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to transport property, passengers, or hazardous materials (HAZMAT) and is involved in commerce (transportation related to a business). It could be a company with several power units, or it could be an owner-operator.
Thus a "motor carrier" is essentially a firm that operates vehicles for the purpose of commercial transport. What it carries and the types of vehicle it uses may vary; we look at that in another article.
Why is the FMCSA Important for Truck Accident Victims?
I'm talking about all this mostly to point out that trucking isn't exactly the Wild West, and there are many federal guidelines meant to maximize CMV safety. Unfortunately not everyone follows those rules, and that's how people get hurt. If a commercial driver cheats on a required physical or a company ignores safety inspection warnings, for example, the chances of a serious commercial wreck increase significantly. The FMCSA does what it can to prevent that, but almost daily the news reports at least a few devastating truck accidents—some of which might have been avoided with better compliance.
When that happens it's important to hold those drivers and companies responsible for going off-book and causing damage. The truck accident attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have decades of combined experience helping people injured by commercial vehicles; if you or a loved one were hurt by an 18-wheeler we will gladly discuss your situation with you. Call Grossman Law any time for a free consultation.