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Federal Trucking Laws

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the federal oversight agency responsible for regulating trucking and motor vehicle shipping in the United States. The FMCSA regularly conducts research to help create a safer road for every motorist by analyzing crash data and statistics and developing new laws with safety as the top priority. Trucking collisions are common and often fatal or injurious, so it’s a good idea to have an understanding of the federal laws concerning tractor-trailers and truck drivers.

New Recent Trucking Laws

In 2013, the FMCSA developed new guidelines specifically focused on combating truck driver fatigue, a common occurrence in a field where drivers must make long trips and meet demanding schedules. Unfortunately, many truck drivers push their bodies and minds too far in order to meet these deadlines, and in doing so create a hazardous environment on the road.

The FMCSA created new hours-of-service rules with the following stipulations:

  • The maximum average workweek was previously 82 hours. That equates to 11 hours per day in a seven-day week, which is understandably worrisome. The new law sets the maximum average workweek for truck drivers at 70 hours.
  • Truck drivers earn money on the road, and some are capable of safely managing demanding schedules without sacrificing their personal well-being. Under the new rules, truck drivers may resume working past 70 hours in a week as long as they rest for 34 consecutive hours that include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. blocks of time. The 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. hours are when the human body demands sleep the most, and as such is the most dangerous time of day to be driving.
  • During the first eight hours of a driving shift, the truck driver must take a minimum 30-minute break.
  • The new rules limit the workday to 14 hours for truck drivers, only 11 of which can be spent driving.

Any drivers who disregard these rules or trucking companies that do not enforce them are subject to tens of thousands of dollars in fines, and drivers may face additional civil penalties. A driver who pushes himself or herself too far puts every other driver and passenger at risk.

Proving Negligence in a Trucking Collision Case

If you suffer an injury in a trucking collision, it’s important to know what direction your case will take and what type of compensation you can reasonably expect for your injuries. Your attorney will help navigate your case and collect the necessary evidence, expert witness testimonies, and crucial data essential for pursuing your case. Your success in court also will depend on your ability to prove the other party’s negligence, and doing so entails three things:

  • You must establish that the defendant had a duty to act with reasonable care. Every motorist has a duty of care to the other drivers on the road to adhere to traffic laws and operate vehicles safely.
  • You must then prove that the defendant violated this duty of care in some manner. If a truck driver pushes himself or herself too hard or for too long and falls asleep at the wheel, this is a violation of the duty to act with reasonable care behind the wheel.
  • Finally, you must demonstrate to the court that your injuries were the result of this violation and would not have happened had the truck driver acted with proper care.

Navigating a trucking collision case can be exhausting, stressful, and complicated. If you’re in the Dallas area and need competent, reliable legal representation, contact the Law Office of Stephen W. Shoultz. We have an established history of successful outcomes in a variety of practice areas, including personal injury and product liability. Set up a consultation about your case and start working toward securing the compensation you deserve.