Laws exist to prevent drivers from operating their vehicles erratically. Driving under the influence charges exist to stop drunk driving. Traffic laws exist to stop speeding. However, there is a different set of rules and regulations governing the trucking industry to prevent catastrophic collisions.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates how trucking companies and drivers must operate with the safety of the general public in mind. In any situation where the company or driver violates these regulations, truck accidents can occur. The party responsible for the violation is liable for the damages in most cases.
Here are a few of the industry regulations that truckers and companies must follow.
The Florida Highway Patrol states that axles determine the maximum gross weight of a truck. On a tractor semi-trailer, the maximum total weight of a single-axle truck cannot exceed 22,000 pounds. Four-axle trucks cannot exceed 73,721 pounds. For all rigs, the maximum gross weight allowed regardless of axles is 80,000.
The truck, the trailer, and the cargo all dictate the total weight, and that is the number used when considering maximum allowable weight. Should the total exceed the weight allowed by the state, it not only becomes a matter of legality, but it also presents a danger to all other motorists on the road.
When a tractor-trailer exceeds legal weight limits, it becomes more difficult for the driver to control on sharper turns and steep downgrades. The result is an increased potential for the truck to crash into another vehicle on the road. The added weight makes it challenging for the trucker to stop their vehicle.
In a truck accident caused by weight limit violations, the responsible parties can include:
- The truck driver for not checking to ensure the truck met restrictions
- The truck company for allowing the truck driver to travel with the overloaded truck
- The employee responsible for loading the trailer with cargo
Hours of Service
Truck drivers must follow the regulations regarding the number of hours they can drive a truck and work before they must take a break. These regulations prevent employees from driving their truck while fatigued—which can inhibit control of their vehicle, decision-making, and judgment.
The hours in which truck drivers can work vary depending on the type of truck. However, general rules say that truck drivers must not drive longer than 11 hours following 10 consecutive hours off the clock.
The truck driver may not drive beyond the 14th total hour of work following 10 consecutive hours off the clock. If the driver clocks in at 7:00 a.m. and works around the warehouse, and then begins to drive at 12:00 p.m., he or she cannot drive longer than 9 hours as he or she has already spent 5 hours on the clock.
A driver who operates beyond the Hours of Service regulations can cause significant damage to other drivers when their drowsiness creates problems on the road. For instance, a fatigued driver may swerve between lanes and make erratic movements, putting smaller passenger vehicles in the vicinity at risk.
The truck owner must adequately perform maintenance on his or her vehicle—no matter if the owner is an individual or company. Proper maintenance means taking the following steps:
- Checking and changing brakes before travel
- Checking and changing tires before travel
- Checking and repairing steering system before travel
- Checking and repairing tow hitch before travel
If something goes wrong with a vehicle due to a lack of maintenance and a crash occurs, the owner of the truck is subject to liability.
At Dismuke Law, we recognize how busy the roads and highways of Florida can be with large commercial vehicles. We also know that when negligence exists, crashes involving these large trucks can be devastating. As such, our Lakeland truck accident lawyers stand ready to help those injured in tractor-trailer accidents pursue compensation from the responsible party.
Call us today at (863) 292-6922 to discuss your potential rights in a free consultation.