Our firm handles personal injury cases from around the country.  Many of them involve commercial motor vehicles.  Understanding the basics of commercial vehicle operations and regulations is imperative to litigating and successfully representing our clients.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was formed in 2000 with the goal of reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.  It regulates and enforces a variety of rules that apply to large trucks and buses.  When there is a crash, injury or fatality involving a large truck or bus, it’s important to understand commercial trucking basics and these regulations in order to pursue the claim.

Motor carrier safety regulations are designed to protect the public from the risks associated with the operation of commercial motor vehicles. Among other things, motor carrier safety regulations ensure that a commercial motor vehicle is safely maintained and operated, prevent confusion about which party bears ultimate financial responsibility in the event of an accident, and ensure that injured parties are compensated.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (“FMCSR”) set forth certain definitions and requirements for commercial vehicles.

The first question you might ask is, “what is a Commercial Motor Vehicle?”

The FMCSR define a commercial motor vehicle as:

A motor vehicle or combination of motor vehicles used in commerce to transport passengers or property if the motor vehicle:

1) Has a gross combination weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds inclusive of a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds; or

2) Has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 or more pounds, or

3) Is designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver; or

4) Is of any size and is used in the transportation of materials found to be hazardous for the purposes of the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act and which require the motor vehicle to be placarded under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR 172, subpart F).

If you are operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle, you are required to have a Commercial Driver’s License (“CDL”).

When a carrier hires a driver, it must maintain a Driver Qualification File pursuant to §391.51.  This file must include:

(1) The driver’s application for employment completed in accordance with § 391.21;

(2) A copy of the motor vehicle record received from each State record pursuant to § 391.23(a)(1);

(3) The certificate of driver’s road test issued to the driver pursuant to § 391.31(e), or a copy of the license or certificate which the motor carrier accepted as equivalent to the driver’s road test pursuant to § 391.33;

(4) The motor vehicle record received from each State driver licensing agency to the annual driver record inquiry required by § 391.25(a);

(5) A note relating to the annual review of the driver’s driving record as required by § 391.25(c)(2);

(6) A list or certificate relating to violations of motor vehicle laws and ordinances required by § 391.27;

(7)(i) The medical examiner’s certificate as required by § 391.43(g) or a legible copy of the certificate.

The carrier and driver must also comply keep records related to their daily activities.  Most people are familiar with the Log Book and the requirement to keep a log book.  Many short haul carriers try to circumvent this requirement with the “100 mile rule”.  This rule allows drivers that operate within a 100 mile air radius of the normal work reporting location to not keep a log book.  However, even if a company is using the 100 mile rule to circumvent the requirement for a log book, it must still keep records that are true and accurate time records.

  • 395.1(e)(v) requires the motor carrier that employs the driver maintains and retains for a period of 6 months accurate and true time records showing:

(A) The time the driver reports for duty each day;

(B) The total number of hours the driver is on duty each day; and

(C) The time the driver is released from duty each day.

Commercial drivers are required to comply with these and numerous other regulations in order to keep us all safe. This is the first in a series of blogs regarding those requirements.  If you or a loved one have been injured or killed by a commercial driver, it is important to contact an attorney that is knowledgeable about those requirements to protect your rights.

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