The trucking industry is an integral part of our economy. A majority of all consumable products are moved by truck. At last count, there were over 11 million semi-trucks registered to operate in the United States.
With so many of these large vehicles on the road, it is vital that guidelines are set to operate a commercial vehicle. The potential for a catastrophic event is considerable when a semi-truck is involved in an accident. With this in mind, the government has established the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to set regulations for truck drivers.
Proper Licensing Is Required to Operate A Commercial Vehicle
A commercial driving license (CDL) is required to operate any vehicle weighing in excess of 10,000 pounds, is transporting hazardous material, or is carrying more than 16 people. To obtain a CDL, you must pass a written exam and a driving test. Most CDL licenses must be renewed every four years. At the renewal, the driver will also have to take an eye exam.
A CDL can be revoked for many reasons. Some of these reasons include operating the vehicle while under the influence, driving while drowsy (nodding off to sleep), and failing to make vehicle inspections as stated in the FMCSA guidelines.
Hours of Service
For many years truck drivers were pushed to the brink of exhaustion because there were no real laws guiding the hours that they could work. Shipping companies often placed very tight deadlines on these drivers causing them to drive too many hours each day. The result was many accidents caused by sleepy drivers.
New FMCSA guidelines state that commercial drivers must not exceed 16 hours of drive time in any 24-hour period. They must also take at least a 30-minute break between eight-hour shifts. Guidelines also state that there must be at least eight hours of downtime between any two 16-hour shifts.
These guidelines often change, and some states have also implemented more restrictions on the total number of hours a driver can operate their vehicle in any seven-day period. Drivers must keep a log of the hours that they run their vehicles and when they are not driving.
Operating Under The Influence
Commercial vehicle drivers are strictly prohibited from using any type of drugs or alcohol while operating their vehicle. There is a zero-tolerance policy for CDL holders. All CDL holders must take a drug test prior to being issued a license and are subject to random testing. Any driver involved in an accident will automatically be required to take a drug and alcohol test.
Hand Held Devices
Distracted driving is a problem for anyone operating a vehicle. For someone operating a large commercial vehicle, the outcome of distracted driving can be significantly worse.
Because of the risk of accidents when driving distracted, CDL holders cannot use any handheld device while operating their vehicles. They are also forbidden from using any type of device that requires more than one push of a button to operate.
The FMCSA has several other regulations that CDL holders must abide by to operate their vehicles safely. These include guidelines on securing cargo, vehicle maintenance, and the transporting of hazardous materials. All of these guidelines must be followed for the safety of the driver as well as others on the roads.
When you are involved in a trucking accident, the case can quickly become complicated. With so many regulations to follow, you will need the help of a trucking accident attorney to help sort out the event and secure a compensation package for your injuries and losses.