When comedian Tracy Morgan was severely injured in a collision with an 18-wheeler employed by Walmart in 2014, many people were stunned by the extent of the damages. The crash killed one person and severely injured several others, including Morgan.
The case involves allegations that the driver had been awake for 24 hours in violation of federal regulations limiting the amount of time that truck drivers can spend on the road. Walmart denies those allegations and claims that the driver was operating within the federal regulations for truck drivers set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In cases like this one, it’s clear that understanding the federal laws that govern the trucking industry is key to litigating a Houston truck accident case.
For an accident in Texas, traffic regulations, as well as state laws and regulations regarding the size and weight of commercial loads and issuance of commercial driver’s licenses also, may play a role.
Understanding Federal Law
Workers in the transportation industry, especially commercial trucking, may be governed by various federal labor laws regarding a wide variety of employment issues including wages, work hours, and safety. However, truckers are also regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, or FMCSRs, which establish the standard of care for truck drivers in Houston and the state of Texas.
This means that in the event of a collision between your passenger vehicle and a commercial tractor-trailer, it is vital to consult a Houston truck accident attorney who understands the complex state and federal laws that govern the behavior and employment of truck drivers.
The FMCSRs were specifically written to regulate the nationwide standard of care for trucking companies and the operation of commercial trucks. These rules are enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, as well as state law enforcement, whose mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.
The rules can be quite specific, but many of these regulations set general guidelines for the professional and safe operation of commercial trucks. Some of the guidelines in the FMCSRs include the following issues:
Averting driver fatigue
Avoiding rear-end collisions
Making appropriate left-hand turns
Preventing cargo shifting in transit
Safety and Health
Federal labor laws that involve employee safety and health are primarily governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is a division of the Department of Labor. It works in concert with the FMCSA to implement limits on a truck driver’s hours of service.
As of 2013, these agencies limit a driver’s hours-in-service to 70 hours per week. These rules also include an 11-hour driving limit within any 14-hour period following 10 consecutive off-duty hours, a mandatory 30-minute break after eight hours of driving, and a 60-70 hour duty limit within a week of work (seven days).
Additionally, federal rules require that interstate truck drivers must get regular medical exams and carry a medical card certifying that the driver is medically fit to drive a truck.
Texas Rules and Regulations
Texas rules apply to aspects of trucking such as commercial fleet registration, size and weight limits on Texas highways, permitting of oversized and overweight loads, and restrictions when large or super heavy loads may be moved within the state. Texas also has incorporated almost all of the FMCSA regulations for intrastate commercial truck operations.
Texas also makes traffic rules and regulations for how vehicles may operate on roads and highways in the state, and regulates the issuance of commercial driver’s licenses to truck drivers who reside or work in the state.
Make no mistake — the trucking industry is a business and their business is making money. That is just one of the reasons why trucking companies are pushing back as the Department of Transportation investigates weight limits on 18-wheelers. The industry, primarily represented by the American Trucking Industry, is also lobbying for “enhanced” hours of service to increase the legal number of work hours per week from a limit of 70 to a new limit of 82.
Knowledgeable Representation for Your Houston Truck Accident Case
The Houston truck accident attorneys at The Krist Law Firm, P.C., who work with Texas truck accidents and lawsuits know that the various Texas laws and complex federal regulations governing the trucking industry can be confusing. We regularly use these regulations to argue for fair and appropriate damages from trucking companies whose policies or practices have hurt another person when one of their trucks is involved in a collision.
We have extensive experience representing people injured in catastrophic collisions with commercial trucks and fighting to obtain the maximum compensation — including the largest commercial truck accident verdict in Texas in 2014.
We have the knowledge, skill, and resources to fight for the compensation you need to restore your life after a serious injury. To find out more about what we can do for you, call us at . We offer a free consultation and charge no fees unless we win your case.