Federal and state trucking regulations in california
Learn how to get compensation if you’ve been injured in an accident with a truck driver
Commercial trucks are often blamed for accidents on our roads and highways. Because of their sheer weight and size, semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles can cause significant damage and severe injury when they’re involved in an accident.
For this reason, transport officials at the federal and state levels have devised strict trucking regulations to help minimize the threat posed by these vehicles.
In California, truck accidents frequently occur when state and federal trucking laws are violated. In fact, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), California ranks among the top 10 states with the highest commercial truck and bus accident fatalities.
This article will discuss state and federal truck laws and explain how you may be able to receive compensation if you’ve been involved in an accident with a commercial truck driver who was negligent and ignored those laws and regulations.
Keep in mind that it’s always best to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after any motor vehicle accident to ensure that any potential evidence is preserved and your rights are protected.
What qualifies as a commercial vehicle?
According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, a commercial vehicle is defined as any vehicle “used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.
This definition covers vehicles such as trailers and semi-trucks. However, it also includes:
- Moving trucks
- Garbage trucks
- Logging trucks
- Tanker trucks
- Construction vehicles
- Delivery vehicles
- Cement trucks
- Utility vehicles
California truck driver rules and regulations
California has specific requirements for anyone who wants to become a licensed truck driver. For trips that occur only in California, drivers must be at least 18 years old. However, commercial drivers need to be at least 21 years old to secure a license for interstate trips.
Commercial driver’s license (CDL)
In addition to age restrictions, drivers need a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to legally drive on California roads. To obtain this, drivers need to first get a commercial learner’s permit and hold it for 14 days. Only drivers who already have a standard California driver’s license can apply for a CDL.
Drivers applying for their CDL are subject to numerous tests, including vision tests, medical exams and written knowledge at the DMV. However, commercial drivers with prior military training or CDLs from other states may be able to have these tests waived when certain criteria are met.
Truck driver logs
The FMCSA dictates that all commercial drivers need to keep logs of all their activities. In the document, they should include their stops, how often they take rest breaks and the results of inspections along their routes.
Today, drivers are expected to use electronic logging devices instead of the handwritten logs they used to submit. This new system is designed to maintain transparency, and this information can often be useful in personal injury lawsuits to demonstrate negligence.
Commercial trucks rely on various moving parts to operate safely. The driver of a company is required by law to inspect their vehicle and identify any mechanical issues or damaged parts to reduce the chances of a semi-truck accident.
According to the California Commercial Driver Handbook provided by the California DMV, trucker drivers are required to inspect their trucks before and after every trip. If they identify any problems, they’re required to write a report and fix the issue before using the vehicle again. They should keep a copy of this written for at least 12 months.
Aside from brakes, lights, mirrors and the steering wheel, drivers are required to check their cargo and ensure it’s properly secured within the first 50-mile stretch of any trip. They also need to perform a follow-up check every 150 miles.
Truckers are often subjected to long hours of driving, which can cause fatigue and lead to accidents. Because of this, commercial truck drivers are required to have scheduled breaks to ensure they’re well-rested. These regulations are termed “hours of service,” and truck drivers need to abide by 2 different sets of regulations, dictated by the state and the FMCSA.
For instance, intrastate drivers are required to observe California’s hours of service regulations, which include:
- Drivers can’t drive for more than 12 hours after being off duty for 10 consecutive hours.
- After 16 hours on the road, drivers are required to stop driving for at least 10 hours.
- Drivers are not allowed to drive after being on duty for 80 hours in the past 8 consecutive days.
Interstate drivers also need to observe the federal regulations by the FMCSA. These include:
- Drivers can be on duty for up to 14 consecutive hours after being off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.
- During a 14-hour work shift, the driver cannot be behind the wheel for more than 11 hours.
- Truckers are required to take at least a 30-minutes break after driving for 8 or more hours since their last break.
- Drivers can only work 60 to 70 hours a week in a 7- to 8-day period.
DOT numbers on trucks
Commercial trucks and vehicles operating from one state to another are required to register with the U.S. Department of Transport to secure an identification number. This number should be displayed in a visible spot on both sides of their truck.
Size and weight limits for trucks
The laws on size and weight vary based on if the truck is a combination setup and how the axles are laid out. However, common regulations include:
- The general length of a commercial vehicle is 40 feet, with an additional 20 feet for articulated buses or trolley coaches.
- The gross weight limit on any 1 axle ranges from 20,000 to 20,500 pounds.
- A truck and trailer combination should not exceed 65 feet.
When to contact a California truck accident attorney
If you’ve been injured in an accident that involves a commercial truck, it’s highly recommended that you get help from an experienced California truck accident attorney when filing a personal injury claim. Lawyers understand federal and state trucking rules and regulations and can investigate your case to prove liability. They can also negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
If you’ve been injured in a truck accident or any kind of accident, the experienced personal injury attorneys at MVP Accident Attorneys are here to help. Our firm has recovered millions of dollars for our clients across California and Texas, and we'd love to devise an individualized plan for your case too.
Contact us today for your free, no-obligation consultation. There’s never a fee unless we win your case.
Brett S. Sachs graduated from Michigan State University College of Law with Cum Laude Honors. While attending Michigan State, Brett was awarded for his service in the Michigan State University College of Law Civil Rights Clinic, where he represented prisoners of the Michigan Department of Corrections from injustices brought upon them. Learn more.
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