Industry Regulations for Trucks in Virginia
Trucks and truck drivers are important pieces of the fabric of this country, and they do an amazing job moving goods and products around. Most truck drivers drive safely and efficiently - but sometimes, accidents happen. Thankfully, there are many regulations to help control the trucking industry to prevent as many truck crashes as possible.
Regulation of the Trucking Industry
While much of the regulation relating to the trucking industry comes from the federal government, some regulation also comes from the states, and Washington DC as well. Did you know for example, there are no federal motor carrier safety inspectors who drive around performing traffic stops on big rigs. That enforcement is usually done by local governments, as well as the states. In Virginia, county and local police departments have Commercial Vehicle Inspectors who perform these duties. The Virginia State Police also have Motor Carrier Safety Inspectors who perform inspections and enforcement of big rigs and other commercial vehicles.
Federal Trucking Regulations
The agency that handles most trucking regulation is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is part of the Department of Transportation. This federal office promulgates many of the regulations themselves, in the form of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, or FMCSR (1).
These regulations are designed to oversee numerous aspects of the trucking industry, including their operation, inspection, maintenance, and repair.
How Long Can Truck Drivers Drive At A Time?
Truck drivers have to keep logs of how much they drive. In the old days, this log was a handwritten document, which could be checked by inspectors at any time. Now, most of the logs are digital, and the truck drivers record their hours through apps on telephones, as well as in dedicated computer systems in the truck itself.
The FMCSA says that truck drivers can drive a maximum 11 hours at any one time, within a 14 hour. However, if the truck driver has driven 8 hours, then he must take a 30 minute break – this is required, by regulation, to be a non-driving period. (2)
Do They Regulate The Insurance a Truck Must Have?
The FMCSR sets out how much liability insurance trucks must carry, based on load and weight. This is the first source of recovery for people who are hurt in a Virginia truck accident.
$300,000 for trucks under 10,001 pounds, if that truck DOES NOT haul hazardous materials (HAZMAT)
$750,000 for trucks over 10,001, if that truck DOES NOT haul hazardous materials (HAZMAT)
$1,000,000 for trucks that haul oil/gas
$5,000,000 for trucks that DO carry hazardous materials (HAZMAT), except for oil
These numbers are the minimum coverage limits, set out in the regulations (at the time of writing). However, these numbers are not enough. They were considered “adequate” when the regulations were written, but that was almost 40 years ago!
The FMCSA itself wrote a report that showed that, if the regulations had merely accounted for inflation, the minimum coverage of 750,000 would equal a minimum today of $1.62 million dollars!!! Unfortunately for those hurt in trucking accidents, the regulations do not account for inflation.
Who Licenses Truck Drivers?
States are responsible for issuing individual licenses to truck drivers, called commercial vehicle drivers licenses. In Virginia, the organization responsible is the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
Truck drivers are responsible for meeting all of the pre screening requirements for a license, as well as meeting all hazard and safety standards set forth by the local government, as well as the federal regulations. Having a commercial driver's license is a privilege, and that privilege can be revoked if a truck driver has a history of improper driving, even if that improper driving is in a car under that driver's regular motor vehicle license.
There is also a lower threshold for operating a commercial vehicle under the influence. According to the law, a person is driving while intoxicated once blood alcohol content meets or exceeds 08%. That threshold is lower when the person is behind the wheel of a big rig.
Do I Need An Attorney If I am Involved in a Virginia Truck Accident?
Yes, absolutely. The reality is that while the regulations surrounding Virginia truck accidents are sometimes difficult to understand, the legal issues surrounding a truck accident are even more complicated. An experienced Virginia truck accident lawyer is going to be able to fully appreciate the legal issues, and get to work immediately on proving your case to get you the maximum compensation that you deserve for your injuries.
At Blaszkow Legal, we review as much information as we can comment as soon as you walk into the office. We review the facts of the case against the federal regulations themselves. If a regulation is found to have been violated, sometimes a presumption of negligence can be created. This is an intricate legal principle, that is sometimes called “negligence per se.” (3)
In any car accident, wrongful death, or other personal injury case, the Plaintiff has the burden to prove that the Defendant committed some act of negligence, which directly lead to the injuries. Negligence is broadly defined as doing something that should not be done, or failing to do something that should be done. Understanding the law applicable to a case, and applying that law to the facts of a case, is something the team at Blaszkow Legal excels at.
Additionally, the logs of the vehicle operation (referenced above) can also prove incredibly vital to working up a Virginia truck accident case. A truck driver who continues to drive beyond what the law says he can, may be acting negligently because this continued driving can result in driver fatigue, which lowers reaction time, and can cause horrific accidents.
The FMCSR sets standards with respect to vehicle inspection and maintenance. A vehicle, such as an 18-wheeler, has to be inspected routinely, and also before each trip. These inspections are done to make sure that the vehicle is safe to be operated upon the roadway. For example, a careless inspection might not show that a tire is coming off, and that tire could then come off on the highway and strike another vehicle, seriously injuring the driver. This failure to properly inspect the vehicle is a negligent act upon which a claim for personal injuries can be based.
A knowledgeable truck collision lawyer is also going to immediately begin researching the coverage available for the truck. Insurance coverage for any motor vehicle can come from numerous sources. As we discussed, federal regulations set certain minimum limits on the coverage carried by the truck. However, additional coverage may be found in certain circumstances on the trailer! Further coverage maybe applicable relating to the freight that is being hauled, if for example a load was improperly stacked in a sealed trailer. There are a lot of things that have to be investigated right away, and Blaszkow Legal can do it!
When Do I Call a Virginia Truck Accident Attorney?
Call Blaszkow Legal right away. If you, or a loved one, have been involved in a truck accident, you need to get the clock started immediately. You can do this by hiring an experienced and dedicated team of attorneys and staff members who are ready, willing, and able to fight for you. We have a lot of experience fighting the truck companies, and peeling back the layers of the onion that is the trucking industry, to find out who did what, to maximize your recovery for the injuries that you have sustained.
Get Justice with Joe – call us at 703-879-5910 for a free consultation
(2) FMCSA Regulations relating to drive-time: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/summary-hours-service-regulations
(3) See: Sibert-Dean v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority v. Woodson, No. 08-2145 (D.D.C. Dec. 4, 2011), holding that an unexplained violation of specific traffic regulation would constitute negligence per se