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When presenting a personal injury case that involves a truck crash, if the vehicle that caused the accident weighs more than 10,001 pounds, the case can be treated as a trucking crash instead of a car crash. This opens the door to maximizing recoveries for clients, since the vehicle can now be considered a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), subject to all the equivalent regulations.

When Commercial Vehicle Regulations May Apply

A so-called "trucking case" is often assumed to involve a semi truck or tractor-trailer, but in many instances, the case may also include pickup trucks and other small vehicles. Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), if a vehicle, alone or in combination with a trailer, weighs more than 10,001 pounds, it is classified as a CMV.

Typically, trucks that pull trailers are considered CMVs and if their weight is greater than 26,000 pound a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is needed to operate.

Differing Regulations for CDL Limited

The difference in regulations between vehicles requiring a CDL and those not requiring it are few. These include regulations that address CDL licensing, the reporting of traffic convictions, and drug and alcohol testing. Most other regulations are similar for all CMVs, regardless of who is operating them.

Finding Violations

Trucking safety regulations almost universally apply to both tractor-trailers and smaller CMVs. Finding violations of these regulations can constitute negligence in a truck accident lawsuit.

  • Registering: Businesses operating CMVs much register with state and federal trucking authorities. The vehicles must carry Department of Transportation (DOT) numbers on both sides.
  • Driver qualification: Employers of CMV drivers must qualify those drivers before allowing them to drive. Drivers must demonstrate they can safely operate the vehicle, must be 21 years of age, able to read and speak English, and be medically qualified.
  • Safe operation: All CMV drivers are subject to regulations governing the safe operation of their vehicles. They may not, for example, drink alcohol or take drugs while driving; text or use handheld phones; or operate the vehicle in conditions that affect visibility.
  • Hours of service: Even drivers without CDLs must comply with regulations governing the number of hours they can work and drive. They don’t have to keep logs, but the employer still has to keep accurate driving- and working-time records.
  • Inspections: All CMVs must comply with inspection requirements, and must keep documentation of those inspections.

Building a Solid Case

Trucking companies have a responsibility to be familiar with safety regulations, and must instruct their drivers about these rules. They’re also responsible for the maintenance, operation, and driving of the vehicles, as well as the hiring, training, and dispatching of the drivers.

Determining if a company or a driver violated any of these regulations can help a personal injury attorney to build a stronger case for his or her client.

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