Are There Additional Laws that Apply to Truckers to Keep the Roads Safer?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a division of the United States government that works to improve commercial vehicle safety, as well as other aspects of travel over the country’s highways and roads. Three primary concerns evolved from FMCSA’s analysis of the most severe dangers.
Truck drivers must stay focused entirely on driving to safely operate a semi weighing up to 30 tons. As text messages have become part of day to day life, texting while driving has become a serious problem. The average text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for up to 5 seconds. The FMCSA reports that commercial truck drivers who text while behind the wheel are 20 times as likely to cause an accident than a driver who leaves the phone untouched while driving. Portable computers also pose a distraction for drivers. Some even try to watch television or movies on their devices while driving.
Texting while driving a commercial vehicle is against federal rules. The first offense is a warning, and the second within three years takes a driver off the road for 60 days. A third violation within three years is a 120-day suspension from driving. Regarding personal computers, federal regulations also govern where screens can sit in the cabin.
Impaired driving comes in many forms for commercial truck drivers. While alcohol and illegal drugs are the most common, some drivers are impaired by prescription medications or stimulants taken to stay awake to stay on schedule. Any substance that affects a driver’s judgment and reaction time can cause impairment.
Trucking companies are required to administer random screenings to drivers to monitor for alcohol and drug use. Also, the FMCSA holds an annual Drug and Alcohol Strike Force to take unsafe drivers off the road. Drivers and companies can be fined for failure to comply with regulations.
Drivers who don’t get enough hours of sleep cause a significant risk to other travelers on the road. Just like alcohol or drugs, fatigue slows a driver’s reaction time and impairs decision-making abilities. Because the trucking industry is so focused on meeting deadlines, drivers are tempted to take risks and drive without appropriate rest.
The FMCSA has Hours of Service (HOS) regulations that govern how long a driver can drive in a designation number of hours. For example, a driver carrying cargo but not passengers cannot drive more than 11 hours after ten consecutive hours off. Drivers cannot drive after 60 hours on duty in 7 straight days. Compliance is monitored through the drivers’ logbooks and supporting documentation.
If you or someone you love is injured in an accident caused by an unsafe commercial driver, you should contact a competent and experienced truck accident attorney, like a truck accident attorney in Houston, TX, to help you protect your rights.
Thanks to John K. Zaid & Associates for their insight into the extra laws truck drivers must follow to keep the roads safe, and what to do if you are involved in an accident with a truck driver.