Drivers of large trucks have to follow special rules of the road in addition to the standard rules that automobile drivers must obey. If the truck driver or trucking company violates these laws and causes an accident, the operator and business can be liable for financial damages.
Federal Regulations on Hours of Service
The federal government created rules that limit how many hours a truck driver can operate the vehicle during a 24-hour period and during a week. This is one of the most important laws for truck drivers.
Fatigue can be a lethal condition for the truck driver, so laws that try to prevent drowsy drivers protect the safety of the truck driver and everyone else on the road. When someone operating a large truck carrying a heavy load falls asleep at the wheel, horrible accidents can occur.
The federal regulations about hours of service for truck drivers carrying cargo include:
- The truck driver cannot drive more than 11 hours after being off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.
- Once a truck driver comes on duty for the day, his workday cannot go longer than 14 consecutive hours, even if he goes off duty during that time. The driver must have had at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before starting the day’s shift.
- The driver cannot go more than eight hours without going off duty or taking a rest period in the sleeper berth for at least 30 minutes.
- Truck drivers must take at least 34 consecutive hours off after driving for a total of 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight straight days. The next 7/8-day block starts after the 34 off duty hours.
As part of these laws for truck drivers, if a driver causes a wreck while violating the federal “hours of service” rules, that violation can be evidence of negligence.
Liability Insurance Requirements for Large Trucks
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets the rules for the amount of liability insurance a cargo truck must carry. Large, loaded trucks can cause more damage to people and property than a passenger car can create, which is why the FMCSA makes cargo trucks buy coverage with higher policy limits than standard motor vehicle policies.
If you gethurt in a collision with a large truck, you will be glad to know that the truck’s liability insurance can provide more compensation than that of a car insurance policy. For example, a motor carrier that hauls freight must maintain liability insurance of $750,000 to $5,000,000, depending on the type of cargo carried. If you are involved in an accident, this is one of the laws for truck drivers that will benefit you.
The Georgia Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
Anyone who drives a commercial vehicle, like a truck that transports freight, in Georgia must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Some of the requirements for a CDL include:
- You must be at least 18 years old, or 21 years old if you want a CDL without the “Georgia Only” restriction.
- The first time you get a CDL or when you upgrade your existing CDL, you must first obtain a Georgia Commercial Learner’s (Instructional) Permit before you can get a full CDL license.
- You must apply for and pass a CDL written (knowledge) exam and a road test.
If a person lies on the CDL application about previous convictions—for example, for driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs—this can be relevant later on if he causes an accident while driving a truck that requires a valid CDL.
How to Establish Liability in a Truck Accident
People who operate large trucks must follow extra laws for truck drivers because of state and federal regulations, but the law of negligence has the same factors for all drivers. We must prove all four of these elements to hold a truck driver liable for your injuries from a collision:
- Duty. All drivers have a responsibility to drive with caution and observe the rules of the road. Drivers of large trucks must also obey the special state and federal regulations that apply to them.
- Breach of Duty. Violating applicable law can be negligence, particularly when there is carelessness involved. Let’s say that a truck driver drove for 22 hours without getting any rest. He violated the federal rules that limit driving hours. He also drove while sleep-deprived, which is negligent.
- Causation. The negligence must be the thing that caused the accident that harmed the plaintiff. The truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into several cars, causing catastrophic injuries to the occupants of those vehicles. The careless conduct of the truck driver caused the accident.
- Measurable Injury. Physical injuries satisfy the requirement of quantifiable harm. The people who got hurt in the collision can go after financial damages for their losses.
After we prove all four of those issues, we can pursue compensation from the at-fault driver.
Call S. Burke Law today at (404) 842-7838 for a free consultation.