The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000, according to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (49 U.S.C. 113). The FMCSA’s primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. Activities of the Administration contribute to ensuring safety in motor carrier operations through strong enforcement of safety regulations; targeting high-risk carriers and commercial motor vehicle drivers; improving safety information systems and commercial motor vehicle technologies; strengthening commercial motor vehicle equipment and operating standards; and increasing safety awareness. The Administration works with Federal, State, and local enforcement agencies, the motor carrier industry, labor and safety interest groups, and others to accomplish these activities.
The FMCSA places a heavy burden on trucking companies and 18-wheeler truck drivers:
Every motor carrier, its officers, agents, representatives, and employees responsible for the management, maintenance, operation, or driving of commercial motor vehicles, or the hiring, supervising, training, assigning, or dispatching of drivers, shall be instructed in and comply with the rules in this part.
See 49 CFR §392.1.
The FMCSA was created by the US government to (a) regulate the trucking industry and (b) protect Americans by improving safety standards across the country. Every single trucking company and 18-wheeler truck driver in the country must adhere to the FMCSA’s regulations.
Unfortunately, many trucking companies and 18-wheeler truck drivers fail or refuse to follow the FMCSA regulations. That decision can result in devastating wrecks and life-altering injuries. Please keep reading below to see some of the FMCSA violations trucking companies and 18-wheeler truck drivers commit.
Common Safety Violations of the FMCSA
Commercial Driver’s License Requirement
Some trucking companies fail to ensure their drivers have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). As a threshold requirement, an 18-wheeler truck driver almost always needs to have a CDL before they can get behind the wheel.
Background Check and Drug Tests
Some trucking companies do not perform pre-employment background checks and/or drug tests before putting someone behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler. Companies that do not perform basic background checks and pre-employment drug screening tend to attract less than qualified truck drivers. Trucking companies must perform background checks and random drug tests to be considered remotely safe. Drivers who fail a drug test must be immediately taken off the road, regardless of how much money the trucking company may lose. If that does not happen, the truck driver and the trucking company have made a poor choice to jeopardize everyone’s lives and safety on the roads.
Poor Driving Records
Some trucking companies hire workers that have criminal and poor driving records. It is unlawful for trucking companies to hire drivers with a history of DUI/DWI, poor driving records, or other issues that make them unsafe on the road. While some of these rules may not be written specifically in the regulations of the FMCSA, they can still violate other laws or regulations. They can lead to serious collisions and injuries.
The maintenance standards detailed in the FMCSA are intended to ensure 18-wheelers are safe. 18-wheelers are designed for decades of driving and require constant maintenance to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being on the roads. Trucking companies and 18-wheeler drivers must inspect their vehicle’s tires, brakes, lights, and other systems on the trucks daily and/or routinely. These daily and/or routine inspections help ensure everything is working properly and help prevent accidents. It’s no surprise that the FMCSA demands trucking companies and truck drivers perform routine maintenance on 18-wheelers:
Inspection, repair, and maintenance. (a) General. Every motor carrier and intermodal equipment provider must systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained, all motor vehicles and intermodal equipment subject to its control. (1) Parts and accessories shall be in safe and proper operating condition at all times. These include those specified in part 393 of this subchapter and any additional parts and accessories which may affect the safety of operation, including but not limited to frame and frame assemblies, suspension systems, axles and attaching parts, wheels, and rims, and steering systems. (2) Pushout windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights in buses shall be inspected at least every 90 days.
See 49 CFR §396.3.
Due to the amount of driving done by 18-wheeler drivers, the truck’s tires wear down quickly. Many trucking companies and 18-wheeler drivers look for cheap shortcuts when repairing a tire—this keeps costs down and the 18-wheeler in service. For example, some trucking companies and/or drivers replace the tread re-capped tires. The problem with this approach is that it can keep older tires in service for too long, which results in tire failure. Tire failure can and does result in catastrophic injuries on the roads.
Hours of Service Regulations
Hours of service regulations limit how long drivers can go without breaks. 18-wheeler truck drivers are required to take at least a 30-minute break every eight hours. 18-wheeler truck drivers must take a 10-hour break after driving 14 hours. Generally, an 18-wheeler truck driver cannot drive more than 11 hours after being off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.
Additionally, truck drivers cannot drive more than 60 hours over the course of a seven-day period. Moreover, once a driver’s workweek is completed, they must remain off-duty for a minimum of 34 hours.
The reasons limiting the hours an 18-wheeler truck driver can drive are obvious. A driver who is too tired or overworked cannot drive safely.
Injuries Related to Trucking Companies and 18-Wheeler Truck Drivers
Below is a summary of some truck and bus crash facts for 2018 (this information was last updated by the FMCSA in October 2020). Over the past year (from 2017 to 2018):
- The number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes increased 1 percent, from 4,804 to 4,862, and the large truck involvement rate (large trucks involved in fatal crashes per 100 million miles traveled by large trucks) decreased 1 percent, from 1.61 to 1.59.
- The number of large trucks involved in injury crashes increased by 5 percent, from 107,000 to 112,000.
- The number of large trucks involved in property damage only crashes increased by 14 percent, from 363,000 to 414,000.
- The number of buses involved in fatal crashes remained steady at 234.
Get Help from an 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyer If You Are Involved in a Crash
If you have been seriously injured or tragically lost a loved one in a roadway accident involving a tractor-trailer or other commercial vehicle in Texas, New Mexico, or Louisiana, please contact our 18-wheeler accident attorneys at Morrow and Sheppard LLP and review our blog article that identifies a few of the things you should immediately do if you are involved in a crash with an 18-wheeler.