Commercial trucking is a regulated industry in the United States. Truck drivers and trucking companies are subject to a bevy of laws and regulations, and many of these are laws and regulations are focused specifically on ensuring the safety of drivers and passengers on the road.
Unfortunately, violations of these rules and regulations are common. Whether due to carelessness, recklessness, or placing profits before safety, truck drivers and trucking companies are routinely cited for violations of safety-related federal standards. When these violations lead to commercial trucking accidents, victims and their families will often be entitled to financial compensation.
7 Common Safety Violations Involved in Commercial Truck Accidents
1. Hours-of-Service Violations
Many commercial trucking accidents result from violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) hours-of-service regulations. These regulations limit the number of hours that truck drivers can spend behind the wheel, and they are designed to reduce the risk of driver fatigue as well as the risk of truck drivers using drugs to stay awake behind the wheel. The FMCSA has established different hours-of-service rules for property-carrying and passenger-carrying trucks. For property-carrying trucks (including tractor trailers and 18-wheelers), the hours-of-service rules include:
- 11-Hour Driving Limit – Truck drivers may not drive more than 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- 14–Hour Driving Limit – Truck drivers may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- 60/70-Hour Limit – Truck drivers may not drive after 60 hours on duty over seven consecutive days or after 70 hours on duty over eight consecutive days.
- Rest Breaks – Truck drivers may not drive more than 8 hours without taking at least a 30-minute rest.
2. Lighting Violations
Commercial trucks are required to have operational headlights, tail lights, side markers, and various other lights and reflectors. If you observe commercial trucks driving the opposite way on the highway at night, you will notice that most of them have nearly-identical lighting arrangements. There is good reason for this: Despite their enormous size, commercial trucks can still be difficult to see in the dark and truck drivers must have clear visibility of their surroundings at all times. While a burnt-out lightbulb may be relatively easy to fix, it can have devastating consequences if it is not fixed in time to prevent a collision.
3. Brake Violations
Faulty brakes are a prevalent safety issue as well. For obvious reasons, all commercial trucks are required to be equipped with safe and functioning brakes. However, one study found that approximately one million trucks are cited for brake-related safety violations each year. When a commercial truck’s brakes are worn or defective, the risk of a major accident increases substantially.
4. Tire Tread Violations
Having adequate tire tread ensures that a commercial truck will steer and brake as it is supposed to. In states like Oregon and Washington where we routinely get heavy rain and snow, adequate tread depth is essential to mitigating the risk of dangerous pileups and other weather-related accidents.
5. Driver Log Violations
While driver log violations are not necessarily dangerous in and of themselves, they are often indicative of much bigger problems. For example, many of these violations involve failure to adequately document truck drivers’ compliance with the hours-of-service regulations discussed above. If a truck driver is not documenting his or her hours, there is usually a reason why. Unfortunately, it is also well known that some trucking companies actually encourage their drivers to exceed the federal hours-of-service standards in order to get their deliveries where they need to be on time.
6. Medical Examiner’s Certificate Violations
Prior to driving, commercial truck drivers must obtain a Medical Examiner’s Certificate. This requirement ensures that truck drivers are “physically qualified” to drive. Failing to obtain a Medical Examiner’s Certificate, driving on an expired Medical Examiner’s Certificate, and driving despite being denied a Medical Examiner’s Certificate are all common trucking safety violations.
7. Cargo Securement Violations
Commercial trucks can carry several tons of cargo. In order to avoid spilling this cargo on the road and to ensure that truck drivers are able to stop suddenly when necessary, this cargo must be properly secured. The FMCSA has established regulations for what it calls “cargo securement.” And despite the critical importance of adequately securing cargo, violations of these cargo securement regulations are common as well.
Proving That a Safety Violation Caused a Commercial Truck Accident
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a commercial truck accident, proving a safety violation will not necessarily establish your claim for compensation. For example, even if both of the truck’s headlights were burnt out, if the accident happened during the day and the truck was clearly visible, it may be difficult to argue that the lighting violation caused or contributed to the accident. On the other hand, if there is evidence to suggest that the truck driver was asleep behind the wheel or if the truck driver was unable to stop because the truck’s cargo had not been properly secured, then proving the safety violation could be a critical step on your road to financial recovery.
While there are potentially a number of different ways to prove a trucking safety violation, they all involve conducting a prompt and thorough investigation. As a result, after a commercial truck accident, it is important to speak with an attorney, right away. An experienced attorney will be able to work with forensic experts to determine the cause of the accident and obtain hours-of-service records and other documentation in order to prove your claim for just compensation.
Speak with a Commercial Truck Accident Lawyer in Oregon or Washington
D’Amore Law Group is a personal injury and wrongful death law firm that represents commercial truck accident victims and their families throughout Oregon and Washington. Tom D’Amore is a board-certified truck accident attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. If you have questions and would like to speak with an attorney, you can call us today or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.