Truck drivers, owner-operators, and trucking companies must comply with both state and federal laws. For trucks that operate across state lines, federal laws are paramount, as these vehicles would not be able to operate if they did not comply with the regulations. Here, we want to review the most pertinent federal trucking laws and industry regulations you should be aware of. Additionally, we want to discuss how violations of these laws and regulations could lead to a truck driver or trucking company being held responsible if an accident occurs.
In order to prevent a driver from becoming fatigued while operating a commercial motor vehicle, the federal government has outlined specific requirements for how many hours a driver can operate each day and during the week. These regulations are monitored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and include the following requirements:
For on-duty time during the day, there is a 14-hour limit. Drivers are prohibited from operating beyond the 14th consecutive hour after commencing duty, following a minimum of 10 hours off duty.
Mandatory 30-minute breaks are required when drivers have accumulated eight hours of driving without a single 30-minute interruption. This break can be fulfilled through various non-driving activities taking place within a consecutive 30-minute timeframe.
The maximum allowable hours for operation are 60 or 70, depending on the timeframe. Drivers are restricted from exceeding 60 hours in a seven-day work week or 70 hours in an eight-day work week. Restarting a seven or eight-day period is permitted after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
The law has long required that commercial truck drivers maintain a logbook of their hours, and this was traditionally a paper logbook. However, federal law now requires all commercial trucks to have an electronic logging device (ELD) to keep track of truck driver hours. These devices are connected directly to the actual vehicle and maintain a more accurate log of truck driver operation hours.
The FMCSA does have specific requirements for truck maintenance, and these requirements apply to trucking carriers as well as individual truck owner-operators. The laws state that every motor carrier is subjected to the requirement of regularly inspecting, repairing, and maintaining any vehicle under its control. This includes maintenance for the overall truck as well as all parts and accessories to ensure they are in proper and safe working conditions.
Regulations state that commercial vehicles cannot operate in a condition that will likely lead to an accident or a breakdown of the vehicle.
The federal government also requires commercial truck drivers to undergo drug and alcohol testing. Drug tests check for any controlled substances illegal at the federal level, and alcohol tests check blood alcohol concentrations at the time of the test.
Drivers are subjected to random drug and alcohol screening, and they are also required to take drug and alcohol tests before beginning a new employment position. Additionally, any accident that causes an injury or fatality will typically trigger the requirement for the driver to be drug and alcohol tested.