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What Are the Federal Regulations That Trucking Companies Must Follow?

A red car after having sustained damage from impacting the rear of a semi trailer at high speed.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations are a set of laws designed to protect the well-being of the general public. Trucking companies and commercial vehicle operators must abide by these laws. Violations of these regulations can lead to injury and death. Personal injury lawyers know these rules and use them to determine fault in a commercial trucking accident. You can find the Code of Federal Regulations in the National Archives. The laws pertaining to trucking companies are in Title 49 under the heading “transportation.”

What Is the Safety Compliance for Trucking Companies?

The Compliance Safety Accountability Program, or CSA, is the entity responsible for enforcing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The CSA monitors motor carriers and owner-operators for safety problems and intervenes when necessary. They send warning letters and conduct investigations. Any violations will impact the safety records of both the driver and the trucking company. They assign safety scores from zero to one hundred according to their performance. The lower the score, the lower the risk. These scores ensure that trucking companies and their drivers adhere to federal regulations.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration posts trucking companies’ safety information online. This data includes crash reports from the previous two years, roadside inspections, driver and vehicle violations, and investigation results organized into seven parts.

  1. The crash indicator shows the company’s history of accidents.
  2. The unsafe driving category is for violations such as reckless driving, non-compliance with seatbelt requirements, speeding, and improper lane changes.
  3. Maintenance of commercial vehicles includes lights, brakes, defects, and any failures to make required repairs.
  4. Non-compliance with safe driving regulations and logbook completion falls under the hours-of-service category.
  5. Driver fitness keeps track of medical examination and licensure compliance.
  6. Any usage of controlled substances or alcohol is reported.
  7. A separate category for handling hazardous materials is available for data about proper placarding, packaging, and container violations.

Compliance with safety regulations is crucial to saving lives and reducing injuries. The principles also save trucking companies a substantial amount of money by reducing accidents and subsequent fines and payouts. Achieving low-risk safety scores also helps trucking companies assess their overall operations and has a remarkable influence on their insurance expenses. Insurance companies use the CSA safety scores awarded to truck drivers and companies to calculate their insurance premiums. Keeping safety at the center of attention helps trucking companies and their drivers attain and preserve smoother operations and a better reputation.

The Compliance Safety Accountability Program assists trucking companies by promoting better hiring practices and effective training for new employees. The CSA highlights how communication between drivers and other employees reduces non-compliance. Positive reinforcement is encouraged to improve employee behavior, and continued education for everyone in the trucking industry is provided on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website.

Federal Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; General, are found in Part 390 of Title 49. The laws are constantly reviewed and updated to remain relevant and worthy of their label as the best practices for safety. Some of the more noteworthy regulations from this section are as follows:

  • “Every employer shall be knowledgeable of and comply with all regulations.” Ignorance of the law is not a defense; it is actually illegal. Trucking companies are also required to inform all drivers and other employees involved in motor carrier operations of these regulations. 49 CFR 390.3
  • All required equipment and appendages related to motor vehicles must be maintained to meet performance and design standards. All parts of the truck and trailer have to be kept working properly. Trucking companies have preventative maintenance schedules and often employ their own mechanics to adhere to this law. 49 CFR 390.33
  • Independent contractors and drivers of leased trucks are included as employees of the trucking companies, and the law allows them to be employees of multiple companies. In the event of a commercial vehicle accident, this provision increases the amount of liability insurance available. 49 CFR 390.5
  • The law protects the drivers from trucking companies threatening to withhold work in order to entice them to drive in a way that would violate any laws. The companies must not allow drivers to exceed their allotment of drive time in compliance with the hours-of-service rules. Truck companies are responsible for ensuring their drivers are completing their logbooks honestly. 49 CFR 395.3
  • All drivers must be licensed to operate a commercial vehicle, be over twenty-one years old, and pass a Department of Transportation-regulated medical exam. They must also be able to read and communicate in English. 49 CFR 391.11
  • Trucking companies must be attentive during their hiring process. They must investigate potential drivers’ past three years of safety performance history and check their references. Skipping this step could result in the company being held liable for damages due to negligence in hiring practices. 49 CFR 391.23
  • Commercial vehicle drivers with any alcohol on their breath may not operate a commercial vehicle for 24 hours. A driver with a blood alcohol content of 0.04% or higher is considered to be driving under the influence and will receive a one-year suspension of their license. A second offense will result in losing their commercial driver’s license forever. Employers must conduct a drug screening for all new employees and report the results to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. 49 CFR 391.15
  • Drivers crossing state lines must adhere to the traffic laws of all states in which they operate. 49 CFR 392.2
  • Truck drivers are forbidden to operate their vehicles when they are or will become impaired due to illness or fatigue. 49 CFR 392.3
  • The use of amphetamines is prohibited for drivers. 40 CFR 392.4
  • Trucking companies are responsible for scheduling safe delivery times for loads. 49 CFR 392.5
  • Drivers must inspect emergency equipment at regular intervals. 49 CFR 392.8
  • A large part of commercial driver’s license training is dedicated to pre-trip inspection. The lights, electrical connections, reflectors, service brakes, air hoses, steering components, horn, tires, mud flaps, windshield and wipers, kingpin, fuel tanks, mirrors, all doors, and more must be included in every inspection and found free from defect before driving. 49 CFR 392.7
  • The driver will place warning devices, such as reflective triangles or flares, around the truck within ten minutes of stopping due to a breakdown. 49 CFR 392.22
  • Radar detectors are illegal. 49 CFR 392.14
  • Vehicles must undergo thorough annual inspections and pass before returning to service. 49 CFR 396.13
  • Drivers must exercise due care during adverse weather conditions. Rain, snow, sleet, mist, fog, smoke, dust, debris, wind, and ice all affect the driver’s range of vision and the traction of a commercial motor vehicle. The driver must reduce their speed as appropriate for the conditions. When conditions are exceedingly dangerous, the driver must discontinue the operation of the truck until the environment is safe enough to continue. 49 CFR 392.4

Trucking companies must comply with all safety regulations. Failure to do so will make them liable for any damages arising from motor vehicle collisions because of their negligence. Laws surrounding safe practices exist to keep people safe. Ignoring the rules is dangerous. Truck driving is a hazardous occupation, but sharing the road with a truck is much more treacherous. Trucks can legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds and are approximately 75 feet long. They take about twice as long to stop as a car and have substantial blind spots and extensive turning radiuses. Safety should be the truck driver’s top priority at all times. The level of danger multiplies every time the driver or the trucking company brushes safety aside.

Severe injuries and fatalities happen every year because people become ignorant and complacent about the law. There were 101,000 police-reported injury crashes involving a large truck in 2020, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Overwhelming medical bills plagued the survivors of these crashes, and to make matters worse, they could not return to work while they recovered from their injuries, if they could return at all. Some victims require round-the-clock care and can no longer provide for their families.

Following Federal Safety Regulations is the best way to prevent accidents. When someone decides to break the law, their actions indicate that your safety is not important. Professional drivers must be held accountable for this blatant disrespect of everyone around them. Personal injury lawyers find these violations and hold the negligent party accountable.

Protect Your Rights and Get the Compensation You Deserve

If you or your family member has been involved in a trucking accident, Goldblatt + Singer can help to determine and prove who is liable. Our experienced team is dedicated and reliable. Legal representation through our firm gives you peace of mind knowing that we are working for the best possible settlement on your behalf. Your most important priority is your recovery, so let us handle the rest. Contact the St. Louis truck accident attorneys at Goldblatt + Singer at (314) 231-4100 to schedule a free consultation. We will review the details of your accident and discuss how we can support you through the legal process.


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