FMCSA Rules and Regulations for Trucking Accident Safety

February 16, 2024 | Ed Bernstein
FMCSA Rules and Regulations for Trucking Accident Safety

Hiring an attorney who deeply understands Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules and regulations for trucking accident safety will be essential. Their knowledge of these rules and the laws applying to truck accidents will help increase your chances of obtaining maximum compensation for your injury. 

Here's a look at how FMCSA rules and regulations might apply to your case and how a Henderson truck accident attorney can help you get the money you deserve. 

Understanding Key FMCSA Rules and Regulations

FMCSA Rules and Regulations for Trucking Accident Safety

The FMCSA is pivotal in keeping our highways safe by implementing and enforcing trucking industry regulations. Knowing FMCSA rules and regulations is vital to understanding their potential impact on your case.

The following are more significant regulations and their role in maintaining safety on our nation's roads. You'll also learn how violations of these rules can affect your chances of obtaining compensation.

Hours of Service

There are several FMCSA rules and regulations vital to truck safety. The hours of service (HOS) rule is arguably the most important because the FMCSA designed it to reduce instances of truck drivers staying behind the wheel when exhausted.

The HOS rule is highly detailed, as are most FMCSA rules and regulations. Here's a summary of some of the most significant points.

  • Truck drivers can't stay behind the wheel for more than 14 consecutive hours. They must have spent at least ten straight hours off duty if they choose to drive that long.
  • Drivers must take a 30-minute break if they've been on the road for eight hours without interruption.
  • Truckers must be off duty for 34 hours or longer after driving 60 hours over seven consecutive days or 70 hours over eight days.

Fatigued driving ranks No. ten on a list of the most significant factors in truck accidents, according to the FMCSA. Driving while exhausted makes it nearly impossible to focus on the road and react to suddenly changing conditions. If a fatigued truck driver caused the accident that led to your injury, that driver can face substantial liability.

Vehicle Maintenance and Inspection Requirements

Vehicle Maintenance and Inspection Requirements

FMCSA rules and regulations mandate that all trucking companies require their drivers to prepare a report on their vehicle's working condition. They must file this report at the end of their working day to show whether or not critical truck components worked correctly. These components include:

  • The brakes and parking brake
  • Steering wheel
  • Tires
  • Wheels and rims
  • Lights
  • Windshield wipers

Trucking companies must repair or replace any malfunctioning parts before allowing the vehicle back on the road.

Proper maintenance is critical to truck safety. According to the FMCSA, nearly 30 percent of truck accidents involve defective brakes. Researchers conducting a study analyzing crash data found that if a truck has any defect, that vehicle will be 362 percent more likely to be in an accident. 

You can sue the trucking company if your attorney's investigation shows faulty maintenance contributed to the accident.

Driver Qualifications and Training

The FMCSA also mandates that trucking companies hire only qualified, trained drivers. Unfortunately, many companies put people behind the wheel without business trying to drive such a complicated machine. They do this because there simply aren't enough people who want to drive a truck.

Driver shortages often cause trucking companies to turn to people who don't know how to operate an 80,000-pound machine safely. Carriers will sometimes hire drivers with a history of impaired driving or drivers who previously caused accidents due to some other form of negligence. 

When a trucking company hires an unqualified driver, and that driver causes an accident, your attorney can sue the carrier for violating FMCSA rules and regulations.

Drug and Alcohol Testing Regulations

Trucking companies must conduct regular drug testing of drivers. They must take that driver off the road if they receive a positive result. 

Truck drivers must also comply with stricter FMCSA rules and regulations regarding alcohol consumption. The legal BAC (blood alcohol concentration) in most states is .08 percent. But if a truck driver has a BAC of .04 percent or higher, the company must prohibit them from performing any safety-sensitive jobs.

If the company fails to take the required action and an impaired driver causes an accident, the company will face severe penalties and civil liability. 

Penalties for Violating FMCSA Rules and Regulations

Trucking companies face stiff fines for violating FMCSA rules and regulations. These are just a few examples.

  • A driver operating a vehicle taken out of service – $2,232.
  • Falsification of records – $14,960.
  • Allowing a truck driver who fails an alcohol test to operate a vehicle – $3,740 for the first offense, $7,481 for each subsequent offense.
  • Authorizing or allowing violations of an out-of-service lawyer – $37,400.
  • A violation of hazardous materials or safety permitting regulations that leads to a severe injury, illness, or death – $225,455.

How an Attorney's Investigation Can Hold Truckers and Trucking Companies Accountable

As stated earlier, a truck accident attorney who understands FMCSA rules and regulations can help you get the money you deserve. When a driver or carrier violates these mandates and causes an accident, they must be held accountable. A lawsuit can do precisely that, forcing them to pay dearly for their negligence.

The key to a successful lawsuit is a prompt, thorough investigation. Truck accident lawyers will typically go to the accident scene to gather physical evidence. They'll take pictures of the damaged vehicles and photos of skid marks, damaged signs, and guardrails. These photos can indicate how the accident happened.

Another essential component of an investigation is speaking with witnesses. Their accounts can prove you weren't to blame for the wreck. Other critical evidence includes information from the driver's logbook. This can show how long they were behind the wheel and whether they violated the HOS rule.

Your truck accident attorney will also request maintenance records to see if the company allowed the vehicle to be on the road despite issues it knew existed. The carrier might have violated FMCSA rules and regulations by allowing the vehicle to operate despite having faulty brakes or worn-out tires. If an investigation shows that's the case, you can be eligible to obtain substantial compensation.

Damages in a Truck Accident Case

Once your truck accident lawyer completes their investigation, they'll know who's liable for the damages or financial losses you've incurred due to your injury. The following is a closer look at what damages your attorney can pursue.

Economic Damages

Economic damages are your tangible losses. Attorneys typically obtain documents to prove these damages, which include the following:

  • Medical expenses – Truck accident victims usually incur substantial medical bills. This includes hospitalization, surgeries, medications, rehabilitation, and ongoing medical care. Economic damages aim to cover all past, present, and future medical expenses resulting from the accident.
  • Lost income – Due to your injury, you cannot return to work anytime soon. Since your PTO days will probably run out before you can return to your job, you'll likely lose part of your salary. A truck accident lawyer will work to help you recoup that lost money. They'll also work to help you recover money you might lose if you either have to take a lower-paying position in the future or can't work at all.
  • Property damage – When a truck hits a passenger vehicle, the damage is usually extensive. Your truck accident attorney will pursue compensation for repairing or replacing your car. 

Non-Economic Damages

It takes the skill of an experienced truck accident lawyer to calculate non-economic damages accurately. When someone violates FMCSA rules and regulations, the consequences often encompass more than physical injuries. Victims often experience mental and emotional issues as well. Your attorney can pursue these non-economic damages:

  • Pain and suffering – Truck accidents often cause physical and emotional pain. Non-economic damages address the intangible suffering experienced by the victim, including physical pain, emotional distress, and mental anguish.
  • Loss of consortium – In cases where the accident results in the loss of spousal companionship or support, the court may award non-economic damages to the affected spouse.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life – Victims may experience a diminished ability to enjoy their favorite activities due to the accident's aftermath. Non-economic damages compensate for the loss of quality of life.

Assessing Damages

Truck accident attorneys carefully examine evidence to determine the value of a case or the extent of the victim's damages. Here are a few pieces of evidence your lawyer will use to decide how much money to pursue from the liable parties.

  • Medical records and bills – Thorough documentation of medical records and bills is crucial for assessing economic damages. This documentation includes invoices from hospitals, doctors, rehabilitation facilities, and any ongoing or anticipated medical expenses.
  • Professional testimonies – Your truck accident lawyer may call on medical professionals to evaluate your future medical needs, especially when victims of long-term injuries require ongoing care.
  • Property damage estimates – Accurate estimates of property damage help determine the economic damages related to vehicle repair or replacement.
  • Consultation with mental health professionals – Your attorney may consult mental health professionals to assess your emotional distress and other non-economic damages. Psychologists, therapists, and life care planners can provide valuable insights into the emotional and long-term effects of the accident.

Your attorney will also consider long-term disabilities or ongoing medical needs when assessing damages. They'll take a forward-looking approach to ensure your compensation provides financial security for years. 

Complexities in Pursuing Damages

Complexities in Pursuing Damages

While you think the trucking company's insurance provider will do the right thing and pay you what you deserve, unfortunately, that's not the reality. Truck accidents cause significant injuries that are expensive to treat. That's why truck insurance policies are routinely worth $1 million and more. That makes pursuing compensation a very challenging process. 

It's also very complex. The reason is that multiple parties can have played a role in causing the accident. The truck driver and trucking company can have violated FMCSA rules and regulations. The company that loaded the truck might have been negligent. The manufacturer of a defective part can be liable as well. 

Fighting the Insurance Company

As complicated as it may be for an attorney to determine liability, their bigger challenge, by far, will be to defeat the trucking company's insurer. As stated earlier, there can be millions of dollars at stake. The insurer will use all of its power to defeat you. They'll use high-powered lawyers and other professionals to discredit your case.

But your truck accident attorney will be well prepared to defeat this formidable opposition. They'll use their years of experience and the evidence to fight for your rights. 

Negotiating With the Insurer

The vast majority of truck accident cases settle out of court. But you need a seasoned lawyer working on your behalf to ensure your settlement is fair. Negotiations require a strategic approach. A seasoned attorney will be up to the task.

There are several challenges your lawyer will face during negotiations. One of the biggest is the low-ball settlement offer. The insurer will likely present an initial offer much lower than your damages' actual value. Your attorney must have compelling evidence to prove you deserve every penny you demand. 

Another issue is a dispute over liability. The insurer may claim their policyholder had nothing to do with the accident or that you were to blame. Police report witness statements and other evidence your lawyer collects will show otherwise.

The insurer may assert that you were already injured and the accident did not contribute to your injury. However, medical records and medical professionals' testimony play a crucial role in refuting this argument. By thoroughly examining your medical history and relying on the expertise of healthcare professionals, your legal team can effectively counter the insurer's claim and establish a clear connection between the accident and your injuries. 

Please Consult a Truck Accident Lawyer to Protect Your Rights

Hiring a personal injury lawyer is necessary to obtain maximum compensation. A lawyer with significant skill and a deep knowledge of FMCSA rules and regulations will be an invaluable ally. They'll do everything possible to ensure you obtain fair compensation for your suffering.


Ed Bernstein

Edward M. Bernstein, Esq. is the owner and founding partner of Edward M. Bernstein & Associates, and one of the most recognizable figures in Nevada. Ed is one of state’s premier personal injury attorneys and has hosted The Ed Bernstein Show for over 31 years. He has served the Las Vegas community for decades with dozens of community appointments and terms of service. In the year 2000, he was Nevada’s Democratic nominee for the United States Senate.

Ed received his B.A. from Long Island University in 1971 and his J.D. from Widener University in 1975. Since then, Ed’s professional accolades include numerous publications, honors and awards, court appointments, and has been named one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators.