Given how big and hard to manage commercial trucks are, it makes sense that there are federal rules that apply to commercial driving, while most passenger vehicle drivers are only subject to state-based rules.
Having federal laws in place about the expectations for commercial truckers ensures that drivers know to follow the same rules regardless of what state they work in on any particular day. Looking at some of those federal rules can give you a better idea of some of the risks for commercial truck crashes.
The commercial drivers’ contract with Americans
Commercial drivers get to share the road with regular drivers, but commercial drivers have to follow the special rules to ensure the safety of other drivers. A violation of the rule is breaking their contract. This is frequently referred to as a “contract with Americans.”
There is a no-text rule for commercial drivers
Distracted driving is a risk for anyone on the road, but it is particularly dangerous for those operating big commercial trucks. Commercial vehicles already take longer to stop and more effort to maneuver when responding to changes in traffic conditions.
When you add distraction contributing an additional delay to a truck driver’s response, the result could be a crash that drastically impacts the lives of the people in the smaller vehicle involved. To protect the public, there is a federal ban on any kind of manual entry, even dialing a phone number, when driving a big rig.
Despite industry demands, there are limits on driving times
Your brain isn’t an infallible organ that will work indefinitely. It needs proper nutrition and rest in order to function. Commercial truck drivers subject to strict timelines might decide to drive when they should actually be asleep. Some feel they have no choice because of company requirements.
In order to prevent employers from forcing their drivers onto the road while they are drowsy or fatigued, the federal government puts specific limits on the amount of time someone can be on shift, as well as how many hours they can work in a week and how many hours they can drive during a single shift.
Even personal traffic tickets can impact a commercial license
Commercial drivers can lose their eligibility for commercial driving if they get caught driving while under the influence in a commercial vehicle or their personal vehicle. In fact, less serious driving infractions can also impact a commercial driver’s eligibility.
As you can probably guess from the three rules discussed above, fatigue, distraction and unsafe driving habits can all contribute to the risk of a commercial crash. Many of these crashes are the result of bad driving decisions, inattention and other preventable issues.
If you suspect that a driver violated federal or state rules prior to a collision, that could mean you have the right to bring a civil claim against the driver or possibly their employer, depending on the circumstances.