Truck accidents can cause significant injuries and fatalities because of the truck’s size and weight compared to a typical passenger vehicle. In addition, the dangers of truck collisions are worse when the trucks carry hazardous or flammable materials. Because truck crashes can be so devastating, trucking companies are responsible for ensuring their vehicles are safe to drive and that their drivers are skilled enough to operate the truck safely.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets rules and regulations that trucking companies and drivers must comply with. For example, the FMCSA sets regulations about driver qualifications, maintenance requirements, and hours of service.
Under the FMCSA and Virginia law, commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers must meet specific qualifications to ensure they have the necessary skills to operate a semi-truck safely. Drivers are required to complete the following qualifications:
- Age: Under Virginia law, you must be 21 years old to get an interstate commercial driver’s license (CDL) that allows you to cross state lines. However, once someone is 18 years old, they can obtain an intrastate CDL, allowing them to drive semi-trucks within Virginia.
- Training: Before a driver can get their CDL and operate a commercial vehicle, they must complete a formal training program or have sufficient experience to handle the truck. The driver must pass skills and knowledge tests to show that they can operate a truck.
- CDL: To drive semi-trucks in the United States, drivers must have a CDL issued by their state of residency. To transfer more dangerous cargo, such as hazardous materials, the driver must obtain endorsements proving they can handle and transport such materials.
- Medical certification: Drivers must be able to pass a medical examination that shows they are physically qualified to operate commercial vehicles.
- Driving records: When drivers are convicted of certain traffic violations, such as drug and alcohol offenses, they may be disqualified from operating a CMV.
Requiring these qualifications ensures that drivers have the skills and knowledge to operate large trucks or buses safely. This reduces the odds of collisions due to unskilled driver mistakes and errors.
Hours of Service
Driver fatigue is extremely dangerous because when people are tired, they have a harder time focusing, leading to mistakes. To reduce the odds of driver fatigue, the FMCSA established hours of service (HOS) regulations that limit the time a driver can spend on the road before taking a break. The rules for CMVs that are transporting property-type cargo include:
- Daily driving limit: Drivers may not drive more than 11 consecutive hours. After 11 hours of straight driving, a driver must take a break of at least 10 hours before they can get on the road again.
- Weekly driving limit: Drivers may not drive more than 60 hours in seven days or more than 70 hours in eight days.
- Mandatory breaks: Drivers must take at least a 30-minute break after driving for eight consecutive hours.
Trucking companies must track their driver’s hours to ensure they comply with the HOS rules and regulations.
The FMCSA established maintenance requirements to ensure that CMVs are in safe operating conditions. Under the FMCSA, trucking companies must inspect their commercial vehicles regularly. Drivers must also perform a pre-trip inspection to ensure the vehicle is in good working order. The pre-inspection usually involves checking the brakes, steering, lighting, and tires.
To ensure compliance with the FMCSA, companies must keep records of inspections and repairs performed on each CVM that operates commercially. The records should include the date of the work, the nature of the defects found or repairs, and the actions taken to repair the defect.
Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney
At Invictus Law, our experienced attorneys are skilled in providing quality representation for those injured in a truck accident. If you were injured in a truck accident because of someone else’s wrongdoing, our attorney can review your case and legal options. You don’t have to go through this stressful time alone. Call us at 757-367-8898 or fill out our online form for a free consultation.