FMCSA FACTS

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Commercial truck and bus drivers must take care to avoid causing an accident, as their vehicles may cause catastrophic injuries, damage, or death.  Commercial trucks and buses are much larger than most passenger vehicles, which requires special rules to ensure drivers operate these vehicles as safely as possible.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a commercial truck or bus, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney from Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 today for a free consultation.  Our experienced attorneys have an understanding of key FMCSA facts and regulations to help advise you on your truck accident claim.  If we are not able to win your case, you will not owe us anything.

WHAT IS THE FMCSA?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was created by the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. The FMCSA is the lead government agency tasked with providing safety oversight of and regulating interstate bus companies, commercial trucking companies, and commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders.  The FMCSA’s mission is to reduce injuries, crashes, and fatalities involving buses and large trucks. The FMCSA accomplishes this mission through:

  • Increasing safety awareness
  • Enforcing safety regulations
  • Strengthening operating standards and equipment for commercial motor vehicles
  • Improving safety information systems
  • Improving commercial motor vehicle technologies
  • Targeting high-risk commercial motor vehicle drivers and carriers

To accomplish these actions, the FMCSA will often work alongside various federal, state, and local enforcement agencies, as well as various interest groups and the motor carrier industry. 

FMCSA FACTS

  • Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the FMCSA employs over 1,000 individuals in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.
  • The FMCSA regulates and provides oversight of over 4,000 interstate bus companies, 500,000 commercial trucking companies, and four million CDL holders.
  • The FMCSA provides safety programs such as the Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) program, which identifies safety problems to prioritize for interventions by FMCSA through steps such as warning letters or investigations.
  • The Safety Measurement System is updated monthly by FMCSA to reflect data from roadside inspections as well as crash reports and results of investigations.

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WHAT VEHICLES ARE SUBJECT TO THE FMCSA?

The FMCSA is tasked with regulating and reducing accidents involving commercial trucks or buses.  The operation of the will make a driver subject to the FMCSA’s authority:

  • Any vehicles not used for compensation but that are used or designed to transport 15 or more passengers.
  • Any vehicles designed to transport 9 to 15 passengers for either direct or indirect compensation.
  • Any vehicles that have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross vehicle combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 pounds or more.
  • Any vehicles that are used to transport hazardous materials for the purposes of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.

However, there are some exemptions that do not require strict FMCSA compliance, such as:

  • The non-business related and uncompensated transportation of any personal property, which includes transporting animals or vehicles to shows or similar events.
  • Drivers engaged in the “occasional transportation of personal property” without compensation or “not in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise,” pursuant to 49 CFR Section 390.3(f)(3).
  • Drivers transporting a vehicle, animal, or other personal property in a truck with a GVWR or GCWR of less than 10,001 pounds.
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) also do not generally apply to intrastate commerce, which is generally governed by the commercial motor vehicle authorities of that state.

Any vehicles that meet any of the applicable criteria set by the FMCSA would therefore be subject to the FMCSA’s authority.  As a result, these commercial motor vehicles must comply with any applicable safety regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

WHAT ARE FMCSA REGULATIONS?

FMCSA safety regulations may include:

  • Rules about the driving of the vehicle, including any parts or accessories required for operation
  • Hours of service rules
  • Driver qualifications, including medical exams
  • Alcohol or controlled substances testing for anyone required to hold a CDL
  • Inspection, repair, and maintenance

TRUCK WEIGHT AND DIMENSIONS

The Federal-Aid Highway Amendments of 1974 increased the federal axle weight limits for trucks to 20,000 and 34,000 pounds for single- and tandem-axles, respectively.  Further, the maximum gross vehicle weight (GVW) was set at 80,000 pounds.  These weight limits represent the minimum weights that states must allow, while some states may allow for larger weight limits.

Meanwhile, the Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982 established minimum limits on commercial motor vehicle (CMV) dimensions, allowing a minimum of 48 feet for truck tractor-semitrailer combinations, and at least 28 feet for truck tractor semitrailer-trailer combinations, with an overall length minimum of 45 feet for buses.  Meanwhile, the maximum/minimum limitation for the width of CMVs was set at 102 inches.

Trucks that violate weight limits, sometimes in an attempt by the trucking company to increase profits, can be dangerous, as this overloading may often make the truck even more difficult to slow down or turn.   

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DRIVER HOURS AND BREAKS

Commercial truck or bus drivers subject to the authority of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration must follow its applicable hours-of-service (HOS) regulations.  These regulations differ depending on whether the driver is transporting property or passengers.

Pursuant to 49 CFR §395.8 and §395.11, property-carrying drivers must follow hours-of-service requirements such as:

  • Drivers may only drive for a maximum of 11 hours after ten consecutive hours off duty.
  • Drivers may not drive past the 14th consecutive hour after the driver came on duty following the ten consecutive hours off duty, and these off-duty hours do not extend this 14-hour period.
  • However, this 14-hour maximum driving time may be extended by up to two hours when a driver encounters adverse driving conditions.
  • Drivers must also take a break for 30 consecutive minutes after driving for eight cumulative hours without such a break.
  • Drivers may not drive after having driven 60 hours on duty in seven consecutive days, or 70 hours on duty in eight consecutive days, but the driver may restart an on-duty period after resting for 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

Property-carrying drivers may also be exempt from these requirements under the short haul exemption if the driver is operating within a 150 air-mile radius of the normal work reporting location, and the driver does not drive for more than 14 consecutive hours.

Meanwhile, the HOS requirements for passenger-carrying drivers, pursuant to 49 CFR §395.8 and §395.11, include:

  • Passenger-carrying drivers may not drive more than a maximum of ten hours after eight consecutive hours off duty.
  • Drivers may not drive after having been on duty for 15 hours.
  • Drivers may not drive after having driven 60 hours on duty in seven consecutive days or 70 hours on duty in eight consecutive days.
  • Drivers may extend their ten-hour maximum driving time, as well as the 15-hour on-duty maximum time limit by up to two hours if the driver encounters adverse driving conditions.

As with commercial truck drivers, a passenger-carrying driver may claim the short-haul exemption when operating within 150 air-miles of the normal work reporting location while returning to that reporting location within 14 consecutive hours.

These regulations are intended to prevent fatigued drivers from posing a danger to others on the road. Drivers who violate the FMCSA hours-of-service regulations may fall asleep at the wheel or fail to take due care in avoiding an accident. If a commercial driver violates these regulations and causes an accident, an experienced personal injury lawyer familiar with FMCSA  regulations may be able to help you seek any compensation you may be entitled to.

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INSPECTION

Under the FMCSA regulations, every commercial motor vehicle in the United States must be inspected at least once every 12 months by a qualified inspector with the applicable certification or training to inspect and maintain such commercial motor vehicles. This inspection requirement also applies to combination vehicles, such as a semi-trailer. The FMCSA prohibits any motor carrier from using a commercial motor vehicle unless every component identified in Appendix G of subchapter 396 of the FMCSA regulations has passed inspection.  Documentation of such inspections must be maintained inside the vehicle. These inspections are generally in addition to any additional state-specific requirements each respective state may have in place.

Under 49 CFR 396.9, any commercial driver who receives a roadside inspection report must deliver it to their motor carrier within 24 hours after receiving the report.  If the report declared the vehicle as “out-of-service,” any reported defects or violations must be corrected before the vehicle may be operated again. The motor carrier must then sign the completed roadside inspection report and return it within 15 days of the inspection, verifying that all noted violations have been corrected.

Further, FMCSA regulations require drivers of commercial motor vehicles to perform pre-trip inspections and post-trip inspections of each vehicle operated that day.

Pre-Trip Inspection

49 CFR 396.13 requires drivers to inspect the commercial motor vehicle. The driver must be satisfied that the CMV is in safe operating condition before operating the vehicle.  The driver must also certify that any required repairs from the last vehicle inspection report have been made before operating the CMV.

Post-Trip Inspection

After the completion of each day’s work, every driver of a CMV must prepare and sign a written report which lists any defect or deficiency reported to or discovered by the driver during the inspection that could result in the vehicle’s mechanical breakdown or otherwise affect the safety of its operation.

HOW MAY A TRUCKING ACCIDENT LAWYER HELP YOU?

Trucking accidents are often catastrophic, given the size and force of commercial motor vehicles.  These accidents may result in life-threatening injuries or death.  Furthermore, you may be confused as to how you are going to handle the impact on your financial situation, even as you are trying to focus on physically recovering from your injuries.

However, an experienced trucking accident lawyer may be able to help you pursue any compensation you may be entitled to.  An experienced truck accident attorney may be familiar with these FMCSA facts and regulations, which may help determine who was liable for the accident.  Your lawyer may thoroughly investigate the accident and help you better understand your legal options.  Your attorney may also negotiate with the insurance company to obtain a settlement agreement and avoid the expense of a trial.

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CALL THE TRUCKING ACCIDENT ATTORNEYS AT ZINDA LAW GROUP TODAY

At Zinda Law Group, our personal injury attorneys may be able to help you if you have been injured in an accident with a commercial motor vehicle. Our attorneys have years of experience dealing with FMCSA regulations after trucking accidents, and this experience may help you seek compensation from the responsible parties.

Call (800) 863-5312 today for a free consultation with one of our experienced trucking accident lawyers. We believe victims should not have to worry about affording legal representation, so we work on a contingency fee basis. You will not pay anything unless we win your case.

Meetings with attorneys by appointment only.