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Trucking Laws & Regulations in Texas
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) came into existence on January 1, 2000, functioning as an independent body under the U.S. Department of Transportation. Its primary role is to oversee the trucking sector within the United States. The primary goal set by Congress for the newly instituted FMCSA was to diminish the occurrence of accidents, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. Since its inception, the FMCSA has introduced regulations aimed at achieving this objective. In the event of a commercial vehicle collision, it becomes crucial to ascertain whether the driver or the company breached established regulations in order to determine liability.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Trucking Standards
The FMCSA establishes the essential prerequisites that interstate trucking companies are required to uphold. Interstate commerce pertains to the movement of commodities or services across state boundaries. A trucking company engages in interstate commerce “when the transportation being undertaken has an interstate nature.” This definition is encompassing and encompasses nearly all transportation enterprises.
In accordance with the FMCSA, motor carriers are obligated to register with the agency, acquire a U.S. Department of Transportation identifier, attain a Motor Carrier number, submit an identification report to the FMCSA, and adhere to all safety, eligibility, and financial criteria as stipulated by law.
A selection of these criteria encompasses the following points:
- Maintaining a minimum liability insurance of $750,000 and Appointing a registered agent within the state
- Mandatory possession of a commercial driver’s license by drivers Requirement for drivers to be at least 21 years old
- Adherence to federal limits on driving time by drivers, with mandatory reporting
- Daily vehicle inspections by drivers, with reporting of any identifiable issues
- Granting permission for federal inspections of the vehicle
- Mandatory drug and alcohol testing for drivers following specific accidents
The primary objective of these regulations is to safeguard the general public from avoidable collisions. Any company or driver failing to comply with these regulations and becoming involved in a preventable accident assumes financial liability for their negligence.
Hours of Service Regulations
Hours-of-service regulations dictate the allowable consecutive and overall driving hours for operators of commercial vehicles within a specific timeframe. These regulations also enforce mandatory rest breaks, stipulating both the frequency and duration of these breaks, aimed at mitigating driver fatigue among truck drivers.
Regrettably, adherence to hours-of-service rules is not always upheld by truck drivers. Whether due to employer pressures or the compensation structure of trucking companies, which often pays drivers based on mileage or per load, drivers may opt to breach these regulations. This leads to instances of fatigued drivers or individuals resorting to alcohol or drugs to remain awake during extended periods, ultimately heightening the risk of severe truck accidents. Frequently, these accidents result in catastrophic or even fatal outcomes for other road users.
Hours-of-service regulations are applicable to most operators of commercial vehicles engaged in transporting either goods or passengers, encompassing vehicles such as 18-wheelers, delivery trucks, buses, and trains.
While these regulations display slight variations based on the vehicle type involved, they generally adhere to the following guidelines:
- Drivers transporting cargo must not operate their vehicle for more than 11 hours following a minimum of 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- No cargo-carrying vehicle operator is permitted to drive their vehicle for more than 14 consecutive hours after starting their duty following a minimum of 10 consecutive hours off-duty. Cargo-carrying drivers are prohibited from driving for more than 60/70 hours in 7/8 consecutive days, with the restart of consecutive day periods requiring a minimum of 34 consecutive off-duty hours.
- Cargo-carrying drivers are eligible to operate their vehicles only if no more than 8 hours have passed since their previous 30-minute sleeper berth break or off-duty period (with specific exceptions).
The underlying purpose of these regulations is to mitigate truck driver fatigue, recognizing its potential danger that rivals impaired or intoxicated driving.
How To Tell If A Truck Driver Violated Hours-Of-Service Laws
Fatigued truck drivers often exhibit signs akin to those displayed by individuals driving under the influence or while intoxicated.
Some indications that a truck driver might be operating while fatigued encompass:
- Veering across lanes Inconsistent driving speeds
- Delayed response times
- Abrupt and erratic vehicle movements
- Neglecting the use of turn signals
- Disregarding red lights or stop signs
Should you observe a truck driver displaying any of these behaviors, it’s advisable to maintain a safe distance. Provide ample space between your vehicle and the truck, and if necessary, reach out to local law enforcement to report the fatigued driver.
Nevertheless, the most effective approach to ascertain whether a truck driver has violated hours-of-service regulations involves reviewing the driver’s logbook. Truck drivers are mandated to meticulously document all activities, including scheduled breaks and periods spent in the sleeper berth, within a logbook that they are required to keep within the vehicle.
Texas Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Prerequisites
The Federal government mandates that operators of all commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) possess a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in adherence to state regulations. A vehicle is classified as commercial when a company registers it for the purpose of transporting goods or passengers. Acquiring a CDL necessitates specialized skills and training.
Aspiring CDL applicants in Texas must maintain a clean driving record. For intrastate driving (within the borders of Texas exclusively), the candidate must be at least 18 years old. Those aspiring to engage in interstate driving (across state lines and internationally) must attain a minimum age of 21. Once these fundamental criteria are met, the applicant must successfully pass a written examination, resulting in the issuance of a Commercial Driver’s Permit (CLP). This permit permits the individual to engage in supervised driving practice under the guidance of a CDL holder for a minimum of 14 days. Following completion of this training period, candidates are eligible to undertake the CDL skills assessment and subsequently obtain the license.
In addition to securing a CDL, Texan truckers desiring interstate driving privileges must fulfill the subsequent criteria:
- Reside in the state of Texas
- Be at least 21 years old
- Demonstrate proficiency in English language reading and speaking
- Be devoid of any substance abuse or alcohol dependency
For Texas commercial drivers intending to exclusively operate within the state, the prerequisites include holding a CDL and meeting the following conditions:
- Reside in the state of Texas Be at least 18 years old
- Satisfy any state-specific mental and physical criteria in conjunction with the aforementioned Federal fitness stipulations
It’s important to note that these criteria are not exhaustive, as additional regulations may apply depending on individual circumstances.
Weight Regulations for Commercial Vehicles in Texas
The regulations governing weight limits for commercial vehicles are outlined in Texas Transportation Code Chapter 621 and Section 219 of The Texas Administrative Code. On state roads, the maximum combined weight of a truck and its cargo is set at 80,000 pounds.
Upon loading the cargo, it becomes the responsibility of the driver to inspect, ensure proper distribution and securing of the load, be aware of its weight, and prevent overloading of the truck. Adhering to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) weight regulations, truck operators are required to be knowledgeable about the following:
- Gross vehicle weight rating
- Gross combination weight rating
- Axle weight
- Tire load capacity
- Coupling device capacity
Accidents Caused by Violations of Texas Trucking Rules and Regulations
Regulations directed towards commercial vehicle operators and motor carriers are established with the aim of safeguarding the general public from grave injuries and fatalities. Non-compliance with these regulations not only endangers the commercial operator but also poses a significant risk to other road users. Should you sustain injuries in an accident triggered by a breach of established rules and regulations, you possess the right to initiate a lawsuit against the trucking company and the driver, seeking compensation for your injuries. Our team of seasoned commercial vehicle attorneys at the Dashner Law Firm possesses extensive expertise in truck accident litigation and stands ready to assist you in pursuing justice.