Federal Rules And Regulations Controlling Interstate Trucking
Since 1939, the federal government has attempted to regulate the trucking industry from state-to-state in an effort to guarantee the safe operation of large and massive trucks that routinely operate over and along various roadways and highways throughout the United States. The purpose of the federal government’s regulation of interstate trucking is to prevent catastrophic and devastating injuries and death, which can occur from collisions involving large trucks. Today, any company, business or individual operating a truck interstate must adhere to guidelines set forth by the federal government.
The federal agency overseeing the operation of all trucking companies is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA has established numerous regulations and requirements in order to prevent accidents and injuries involving interstate trucking. Application of the federal regulations applies to trucks that are driven in the state of New York as well as in and around all of the five boroughs if these trucks are involved in interstate transportation. Whether transportation is interstate or intrastate is determined by the essential character of the commerce, manifested by a shipper’s fixed and persisting intent at the time of the shipment which is ascertainable from all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the transportation scheme. Obviously, the central focus in the inquiry is whether or not the ultimate destination of the shipment is identified as a location outside the state at the time the transportation is arranged.
Additionally, according to the provisions of FMCSA, every commercial motor vehicle must be operated in accordance with the laws, ordinances and regulations of the state or jurisdiction in which it is being operated unless there is a higher standard of care in which case the federal regulation must be complied with.
Under the federal regulations, there are regulations pertaining to pre-trip inspections and end-of-the-day reports which must be prepared by the driver and/or the operator of the truck. Additionally, there are rules and regulations pertaining to annual inspections, loading procedures, warning devices, lights, reflectors and retroreflective sheeting, brakes, rear guards, windows, mirrors, fuel systems, frames, axles, steering systems, towing devices, tires, miscellaneous equipment and accessories, adverse weather conditions, unauthorized passengers, hazardous materials transportation and various other requirements.
Additionally, it is unfortunate that many tractor-trailer and/or truck accidents do result from driver fatigue notwithstanding that there are regulations under federal law limiting the number of hours a truck driver can operate his or her truck. In this regard, a driver may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty, and off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period. Further, a driver may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty, and may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in seven/eight consecutive days. A driver may restart a seven/eight-day consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty. Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate two consecutive hours either in a sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.
The following is a small sample of some of the federal regulations controlling interstate trucking companies and drivers. For more information on these rules and regulations and how they relate to your case, schedule a free consultation at the Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C., by calling 212-689-5000.
49 C.F.R. Part 382 Controlled Substances And Alcohol Use And Testing
The purpose of this section is to establish programs to prevent accidents and injuries resulting from the misuse of alcohol or use of controlled substances by drivers of commercial motor vehicles, including truck drivers. This provision applies to all drivers of commercial vehicles in the U.S. and their employers, with some limited exceptions. Drivers who are required to have a commercial drivers license (CDL) under Section 383, which includes truck drivers, must be tested if they drive a vehicle that weighs more than 26,000 pounds, has a gross vehicle weight of over 26,000 pounds, is designed to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or is used to carry hazardous materials.
49 C.F.R. Part 383 Commercial Driver’s License Standards; Requirements And Penalties
By requiring drivers of certain vehicles to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL), this provision aims to reduce or prevent truck accidents. Generally, drivers must have a CDL if they drive a vehicle of more than 26,000 pounds, transport themselves and 15 or more passengers or carry hazardous materials. Therefore, most truck drivers must carry a valid CDL and receive appropriate training regarding the safe operation of their vehicles.
49 C.F.R. Part 391 Qualification Of Drivers
Tractor-trailer drivers or drivers or other commercial vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds, carrying 16 or more passengers or transporting hazardous materials must comply with additional regulations. Such drivers must be at least 21 years old, speak English, be physically able to safely operate a truck, have a valid CDL and must not have been disqualified for driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, committing a felony, leaving the scene of an accident, refusing to take an alcohol test or any other reason.
49 C.F.R. Part 392 Driving Of Commercial Motor Vehicles
Truck drivers, as well as the trucking company responsible for the management, maintenance, operation or driving of any commercial motor vehicles or the hiring, supervision, training or dispatching of drivers must comply with federal regulations. Drivers may not drive while sick or tired and may not use illegal drugs, must obey traffic laws, load cargo safely, perform periodic inspections and drive cautiously in hazardous conditions.
49 C.F.R. Part 393 Parts And Accessories Necessary For Safe Operation
The purpose of this section is to ensure that trucks driven on interstate roads are safe. Specific regulations pertain to lighting devices and reflectors, brakes and brake performance, tires, emergency equipment, shifting or falling cargo, securement systems, frames, doors, hood, seats, bumpers, wheels and steering wheel systems.
49 C.F.R. Part 395 Hours Of Service Of Drivers
The Hours-of-Service regulations put limits in place for when and how long commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers may drive. A driver may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty, and off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period. Further, a driver may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty, and may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty. Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate two consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.
The term “On-Duty” is broadly defined to include the time a driver begins to work until the driver is relieved of all responsibility, including:
- Time at a plant, terminal or other facilities of a motor carrier or shipper
- Time inspecting or servicing the truck
- Driving time
- All non-driving time in the truck (except for time resting in the sleeper)
- Time repairing the vehicle or obtaining help to repair it
- Time spent providing a drug test, including travel time
- Time performing any work for a common or private motor carrier
- Time spent performing any compensated work for a non-motor carrier business
49 C.F.R. Part 396 Inspection, Repair And Maintenance
Under this section, the motor carrier is responsible for ensuring that all parts are in proper working condition and must maintain repair and inspection records. Drivers must inspect their trucks at the start of each day and report any defects and may not drive a vehicle that is defective or likely to break down.
49 C.F.R. Part 397 Transportation Of Hazardous Materials
These provisions apply to drivers of commercial motor vehicles that transport hazardous materials. They also apply to motor carriers who are involved with transporting hazardous materials and employees of these carriers who perform supervisory duties related to the transportation of hazardous materials. Generally, the driver of a commercial motor vehicle that is carrying explosives cannot leave the vehicle unattended. There are also restrictions about where a driver carrying explosive materials can park, and smoking is not allowed within 25 feet of a truck containing explosives or flammable materials.
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