Commercial trucks are massive vehicles that are built with heavy, sturdy metals that can easily demolish nearly any other vehicle. When filled with cargo they can weigh over 5 to 10 tons, and heavy trucks can weigh more than 20 tons. At 65-70 Mph you can imagine the destructive force of a one of these vehicles in a collision.
Due to this heavy load, trucks must be driven carefully and must comply with Federal safety standards. It’s quite difficult to bring a truck to a stop when it is at speed, compared to an ordinary vehicle. Pressing the brakes too firm can also cause the truck to jackknife and go out of the driver’s control, and not pressing hard enough may not leave enough room to slow down if traffic comes to a sudden stop. For this reason and more, there are numerous guidelines that truckers and their employers, (carriers), must adhere to in the United States.
State and Federal Truck Safety Standards
Heavy commercial motor carriers are regulated by the states in which they operate. While moving from one state to another, the truckers are regulated by federal authorities. Most states follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). The safety standards cover the following issues.
Commercial Driver’s License
Carriers operating large trucks and lorries must ensure that the vehicles are driven by qualified and licensed drivers. A commercial driving license is obtained after completing appropriate knowledge exams and a driving test. The driver must also pass medical test and eye exams.
In addition to the driver’s license, carriers must also ensure that drivers do not have a history of repeated incidents of negligence or reckless driving. DUI charges should be taken very seriously and carriers should not employ drivers with previous DUI convictions. Drivers are also required to maintain a copy of their medical records on the truck at all times. The record should show that the driver is mentally and physically capable of operating the truck.
Driving Log Book
Truck drivers are required to maintain a log book that shows the number of hours and miles that they have driven daily. The federal regulations mandate that the drivers can only drive for 10 hours consecutively before taking a break of at least 8 hours. The driver can drive a maximum of 70 hours for 8 days.
The breaks are intended to give drivers time to recover. Driver fatigue and falling asleep on the steering wheel is a major cause of accidents.
Vehicle Maintenance Requirements
Large commercial trucks must pass a number of vehicle requirements in order to remain operational. Vehicles must ensure that they have all of the following:
- Warning stickers and signs at appropriate places on the vehicle. If the truck is carrying inflammable or toxic chemicals, there should be visible signs to show this information.
- A working brake lighting system.
- Protective underride bars.
- Appropriate number of tires and mud flaps as required based on vehicle size and carrying capacity.
- Emergency equipment.
- Proper restraints that keep the cargo secured in place.
- Mirrors and vision assistance that helps the driver cover blind spots.
Safety Requirements for Cargo
The cargo loaded on a commercial truck must also fulfill federal safety requirements as required by FMCSR. Loading more cargo than capacity can put excess pressure on the truck and cause issues on the axles, brakes tires and safe braking distance. In summary, the regulations state:
Cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on or within a vehicle by structures of adequate strength, dunnage (loose materials used to support and protect cargo) or dunnage bags (inflatable bags intended to fill space between articles of cargo or between cargo and the wall of the vehicle), shoring bars, tiedowns or a combination of these. Articles of cargo that are likely to roll must be restrained by chocks, wedges, a cradle or other equivalent means to prevent rolling. The means of preventing rolling must not be capable of becoming unintentionally unfastened or loose while the vehicle is in transit. Articles of cargo placed beside each other and secured by transverse tiedowns must be placed in direct contact with each other, or prevented from shifting towards each other while in transit.
There are numerous rules and specific regulations for a number of different scenarios and unique cargo situations. Some cargo, like hazardous materials, requires special transportation permits and specially trained and licensed drivers. Other materials like heavy machinery, military vehicles, boulders and other loads may require the use of specialty shipping fasteners that meet or exceed federal safety standards. These, and all regulations are always evolving and being updated as new technology makes safety more accessible and less expensive to implement.
Safety standards and following federal guidelines is a big deal for truckers and carriers. Many truckers and carriers operate within safety standards, but some choose to cross the line in pursuit of profits or efficiency. If you or a family has been seriously injured or killed in a truck collision and you believe that safety standards were compromised, you need to speak to an experienced truck accident attorney today. Our listed attorneys have proven capability in the area of Motor Vehicle Accidents with a focus on trucking incidents. Our database of trucking attorneys aren’t just personal injury attorneys who occasionally handle a truck accident. In order to be included on our website, they must have litigated a minimum of 5 truck accident cases to successful conclusion (settlement or verdict); must be licensed and in good standing with their respective State Bar for at least 10 years and 100% of their practice must be personal injury with a focus on motor vehicle collisions.