Common Truck Driver Errors: FMCSR Violations That Lead to Lawsuits

Using Federal Trucking Regulations to Investigate Driver Error

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA):

  • More than 4,000 people die every year in collisions with trucks and 80,000 more are seriously injured;
  • Trucks make up less than 4 percent of all vehicles on U.S. roads but they account for 12 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities; and
  • The majority of people killed in accidents with trucks are the drivers and passengers of cars that get hit.

Many of these accidents are the result of failure to meet standards set in place by FMCSA. This opens the door for truck accident lawsuits, though in order to find success in proving liability, it’s important to know what regulations are in place, and what data is available.

A Trucking Company Must Meet Safety Fitness Standards

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) sets forth mandates like 49 C.F.R. § 391.11(b), which states that to be qualified to drive a truck, the driver must:

  • be at least 21 years old;
  • read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in English and be able to respond to official inquiries in English;
  • be able to safely operate the type of commercial motor vehicle that he/she drives;
  • be physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle;
  • must have a currently valid commercial motor vehicle operator’s license issued by only one state or jurisdiction; and
  • must have successfully completed a driver’s road test and have been issued a certificate in accordance with § 391.31.

Limited Hours of Service:

Under current rules of the FMCSA, truck drivers are limited to driving for only 11 hours and working for no more than 14 hours in each day, in order to limit driver fatigue.

Truck Drivers are Not Independent Contractors

Often trucking companies attempt to avoid liability for crashes involving truck drivers by claiming that those drivers are independent contractors and not employees. But under the Interstate Common Carrier Act there is no such thing as an “independent contractor” driver.

Motor Carriers Must Maintain a Minimum Level of Insurance Coverage

The Interstate Common Carrier Act requires that motor carriers maintain a minimum level of insurance coverage. (49 C.F.R. §§ 387.301(a), 387.7) To satisfy this insurance requirement, regulations require the attachment of a document known as an “MCS-90” endorsement to the motor carrier’s insurance policy, which guarantees payment in the amount of at least $750,000. (49 C.F.R. §§ 387.7 and 387.9)

 Companies Must Record Global Positioning System/Electronic Data

FMCSA requires trucking companies to save satellite GPS data that shows the location of their trucks. Recovery of this data is critical in most trucking accident cases, as is retrieval of data from the trucks Event Data Recorder (EDR).

In addition to retrieval of data from GPS and EDR, other electronic data is frequently recoverable. For example, most trucking companies give their drivers a fuel card. This fuel card is generally subject to a purchase control feature that allows a driver to purchase fuel, but not alcoholic beverages or food. In addition to purchase control, these fuel cards also have a data capture feature that records the time of the fuel purchase, the driver’s identification and his odometer readings. Like GPS and EDR data, this electronic data is also critical in many trucking accident cases.

Our Truck Accident Law Firm Has 40+ Years of Experience

Ginzkey & Molchin, LLC in Bloomington, Illinois, has a long record of success representing people injured in trucking accidents on Illinois’ roads and highways. They can represent any party injured in a truck accident — the truck driver or the drivers or passengers in other vehicles.

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