FMCSA Trucking Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began as a separate portion of the U.S. Department of Transportation in 1999 as a means of regulating large trucks and buses to improve safety and reduce accidents and fatalities. The FMCSA sets federal safety standards for interstate commerce within the nation’s freight industry. These regulations apply to all trucking industry employers, employees, and commercial motor vehicles with weights of 10,001 pounds or more. California’s truck industry laws and regulations follow the FMCSA standards with some additional regulatory requirements.

California Commercial Driver’s License Requirements

All commercial truck operators on California roadways must hold a California commercial driver’s license (CDL). Operators applying for a CDL must first have a standard California driver’s license and then must hold a learner’s permit for 14 days. Obtaining a CDL requires passing vision and hearing tests, a standard medical examination, and a written knowledge test. Drivers with commercial driver’s licenses from other states may avoid the learner’s permit and written exam when obtaining their California CDL.

Truck Driving Logs to Ensure Compliance With Hours of Service Limitations

According to FMCSA laws, all commercial truck drivers must keep meticulous driving logs of their working hours. Logs are now typically electronic rather than handwritten. Driver logs register the driver’s breaks and off-duty days as well as driving hours. Regulating driving hours reduces accidents caused by fatigued driving.

Regulations limit a driver’s hours to the following:

  • A driver may not drive for more than 12 hours after 10 consecutive off-duty hours
  • After every 16 hours on the road, a driver must stop driving for a period of at least 10 hours
  • A driver may not drive after being on duty for 80 hours for eight consecutive days

Interstate drivers face additional requirements through FMCSA federal regulations, including the following:

  • A driver may be on duty for no more than 14 consecutive hours after being off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.
  • A driver cannot be behind the wheel for more than 11 hours during a 14-hour on-duty period
  • A driver must take at least a 30-minute break after driving for eight or more hours since their last break

Drivers must not violate these hour limits or fraudulently log or fail to log hours. Doing so leaves them liable for damage in an accident.

Inspection Requirements for Commercial Trucks

Commercial trucks must be regularly inspected and maintained. Drivers must perform routine inspections before and after each trip, repair or replace any damaged or deteriorated components, fill out a report listing any problems detected and repairs completed, and keep their reports for at least 12 months. Drivers must also check their cargo before departing to ensure their loads are properly balanced and secured.

Commercial trucks must have Department of Transportation VINs displayed clearly on both sides of their truck when traveling between states.

Weight and Size Limits

Various weight limits are in place for commercial vehicles of different sizes and numbers of axles. The largest commercial trucks up to 65 feet long may weigh as much as 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. For special freight types, these limits are sometimes extended with state or federal permission.

How Can a Truck Accident Attorney Help?

If you’ve experienced injuries in an accident involving a commercial truck, violations of any of the above federal and state regulations leave the driver or trucking company liable for damages. Call a truck accident lawyer to navigate the complex process of determining and proving liability from one or more negligent parties.

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