Crashes can be both frightening and, depending on the size of the vehicle, catastrophic. In collisions involving tractor-trailers, semi-trucks and big rigs, they more commonly result in severe injuries, damages and even death due to the tremendous size and weight of commercial vehicles in comparison to much smaller passenger vehicles.
Since large trucks can be harder to control and have less visibility and slower braking than your average passenger vehicle, commercial trucks can also take more time and skill to handle. Given these specifics, it should come as no surprise that drivers who get behind the wheel of tractor-trailers have strict rules they’re required to follow.
In a recent interview, Chris Gilreath from Gilreath & Associates discussed these trucking industry regulations with AskTheLawyer.
Watch the video to get answers to questions like:
- Are truck drivers always at fault when an 18-wheeler accident occurs?
- Who regulates the trucking industry?
- Is it difficult to sort through the complicated regulations of the trucking industry?
- What are some of the rules and regulations that truckers are supposed to follow so they are well-rested?
- Do trucking companies push truck drivers to break the rules?
- How do truck drivers keep track of their hours and miles?
- Can driving logs be used as evidence after a big rig collision?
- How can an attorney make sure that evidence doesn’t disappear after a tractor-trailer accident?
- Why is it important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after a semi-truck accident?
The trucking industry as a whole is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which was created by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) in 2000. The FMCSA is responsible for:
- Collecting safety data
- Developing the standards that help keep commercial trucks safe
- Regulating compliance
The main goal of the FMCSA is to keep the number of injuries and accidents involving tractor-trailers as low as possible. Furthermore, the FMCSA is responsible for setting the minimum standard for how trucking companies and drivers are supposed to operate.
Each state is permitted to choose its own laws regarding the trucking industry. Most states, like Tennessee, have elected to default to federal trucking laws. In Tennessee, tractor-trailer drivers are subject to all of the rules and regulations that have been set forward for intrastate trucking.
These regulations include:
- Carrying a valid medical card
- Recording rest hours
- Maintaining proper record keeping
- Truck size limitations (trucks are limited to less than 8 feet wide and less than 13 feet, 6 inches; above that and a special permit and vehicle escorts are required)
- Weight limits (commercial trucks are not allowed to weigh more than 80,000 pounds)
If a truck driver or trucking company violates (or allows a driver to violate) any state law, they can be held accountable for any injuries that are caused in an accident.
According to Tennessee rules and regulations, most trucking regulations don’t lead to an independent call of action; however, in the case of a trucking accident, injured persons have the right to use a statute violation to prove negligence.
Proving negligence in Tennessee requires victims to establish that the defendant both owed and breached a legal duty. In the drivers, all motorists have a duty to avoid any behavior that could potentially harm others.
Take, for example, a trucking company that loaded their truck so that it weighed above the 80,000-pound limit and then was involved in an accident. Since the company exceeded the weight limit set for commercial trucks, they would have been in breach of that particular duty.
Even with the tough truck safety laws Tennessee has, trucking accidents are still above the national average in the Volunteer State. When trucking accidents occur, there are often complex legal issues that make wading the waters of a lawsuit much different than a typical auto accident.
This complexity means that you need an experienced attorney, like Chris Gilreath, who is knowledgeable in trucking industry regulations and how it impacts liability.