Federal regulations impact truck accident cases
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Federal Regulations and Truck Accident Cases: What You Need to Know

Trucks are the most heavily regulated motor vehicle on the road. Federal regulations limit who can drive them, when they can drive them, and where they can be driven. These regulations help to decrease the number of truck accident cases and make driving generally safer for everyone.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA): Its Role and Authority

The purpose of the FMCSA is to set safety standards that prevent truck accidents. These federal regulations apply to all trucks and drivers that cross state lines and can’t be countermanded by state regulations. This agency has the authority to enforce these regulations through compliance reviews, inspections, and investigations.

Hours of Service Regulations for Truck Drivers

One way that the FMCSA reduces accidents is by limiting the number of hours per day and week that a truck driver can operate a vehicle.

Truck drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours a day (10 if they carry passengers) and may be on duty for only 14 hours a day (15 if they carry passengers). Furthermore, a truck driver may not drive more than 60 hours total over 7 consecutive days and may not drive more than 70 hours over 8 consecutive days.

There are other regulations as well. But these are the most impactful.

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Requirements

A commercial driver must pass a skills and knowledge test to get licensed, just like someone who wants a standard license. However, the required knowledge and skills are much more intense.

States set their own standards, but they must conform with the minimum standards set at the federal level. That usually means that potential truck drivers need to take mandatory courses that take weeks to complete.

Vehicle Upkeep

Most states require you to get your car inspected every year. Because trucks travel thousands more miles in a year than the average car does, they require significantly more upkeep.

Truck upkeep is dictated by the distance that the truck has traveled rather than by time. And every part of the truck must be regularly inspected and repaired as needed. This includes:

  • Brakes
  • Steering mechanisms
  • Lights and reflectors
  • Wheels and tires
  • Horns
  • All mirrors
  • Oil and other liquids
  • Engine
  • The coupling devices that connect to the trailer

In addition to having regularly scheduled inspections, a truck driver must stop for inspection whenever instructed to do so while driving. If a truck driver skips an inspection station, they will be penalized, usually with the loss of their license.

Weight and Size Limits

Tractor-trailers and similar vehicles are the heaviest classifications of trucks. The truck, without any cargo, may weigh up to 26,000 pounds. It may also carry an additional 54,000 pounds of cargo, including the weight of the trailer. This means the heaviest trucks on the road are 80,000 pounds.

Additionally, states set the maximum height of trucks. While some states permit trucks to be 14 feet tall, most limit trucks to 13 feet, 6 inches. This means the latter is the effective maximum height for trucks that travel all around the country.

Electronic Logging Devices

Nearly all commercial trucks are required to have electronic logging devices installed, and they must be updated as technology changes. These devices limit the time that drivers need to spend logging their actions, which helps limit the time drivers need to spend on duty.

Required Drug and Alcohol Testing

Nearly all commercial truck drivers are required to have regular drug and alcohol testing. Drivers who fail these tests will usually have their CDL suspended immediately and are likely to have it revoked. While a driver can get their license restored, they usually have to wait at least a year and complete a substance abuse program.

Additionally, truck drivers need to get tested much more often than people in other professions. They need to be tested:

  • Before getting licensed
  • After an accident
  • Whenever someone suspects drug or alcohol use
  • Randomly
  • After completing a treatment program

If they refuse a test, their license will be suspended or revoked.

How Federal Regulation Violations Can Impact Liability

Typically, if a truck driver violates any federal regulation, they are presumed liable for any accident they are involved in. A good truck accident lawyer may be able to prove that the violation didn’t cause the accident, but this is a difficult challenge.


Who Do I Sue if I Am Injured in a Truck Accident?

Typically, you will sue both the driver and the company that employs the driver. Usually, the company will be responsible, and suing the driver won’t be necessary. But it is better to include the driver until you know for sure. Your personal injury lawyer will determine how to best get you the money you deserve.

How Do Truck Accidents Differ From Car Accidents?

Truck accidents are significantly less common than car accidents, especially when you take into account miles driven. However, they are also substantially more likely to be fatal or result in serious injuries. This is why you need a good truck accident attorney if you are hurt in a truck accident.

Where Are Truck Accident Cases Litigated?

Even though the truck driver may live in another state and the trucking company may be located in another state, your truck accident case will be litigated in the state where the accident occurred. This means your lawyer must be familiar with that state’s traffic and negligence laws.

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today

Truck accidents cause devastating injuries, especially for anyone in a passenger vehicle. If you have suffered a serious injury from a truck accident in Rhode Island, you need the help of a lawyer you can trust. Contact Sands Law today to speak to an experienced attorney.


Recover more compensation. Save time. Worry less. Leave it to the experts at Sands Law to help you. It’s what we’re here for.

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