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Trucking Laws

Semi truck driving on a two-lane roadOne person gets injured or dies from a trucking accident every 16 minutes. In addition, 78% of deaths that occur in a trucking accident are the drivers and passengers who were involved in the truck collision (AAJ). We want to show you a little of the complexity of trucking cases to help you avoid losing all hope of recovery. This page goes over the laws and other legal aspects of trucking cases. We want to make sure you not only understand your rights, but also what will be expected of you as you pursue your case. While we cannot help with specifics regarding your case unless we have agreed to take it, we want to give you free information to help you avoid making any big mistakes in an already difficult time.

How quickly should I seek legal help?

Immediately. Some evidence will start to disappear in about 2 weeks (AAJ). Log books keep records of the hours the truck driver has driven to make sure they conform to federal regulations. Drivers only maintain these logs for 6 months, after which most trucking companies legally destroy them. If you wait to find an attorney or pick someone without the expertise in trucking laws, then you may find your case destroyed because of lost records. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states how long trucking companies must preserve other documents:

1) Driver Logs

  1. Hours of service records and supporting documentation: 6 months from date of receipt (395.8(k))
  2. Supporting data for “Periodical Reports of” hours of service: 3 years (379 Appendix A Subpart K)
  3. Dispatch records: 3 years (379 Appendix A Subpart K)

2) Driver Files & Records

  1. Driver qualification file: 3 years following termination except 3 years following execution (391.51(d))
  2. Driver personnel files: 1 year (379 Appendix A Subpart E)
  3. Payroll records: 1 year (379 Appendix A Subpart E)

3) Accident Claim Records

  1. Accident register: 1 year from date of accident (390.15)
  2. Claim records: 1 year after settlement (379 Appendix A Subpart F)
  3. Insurance records: 1 year after settlement  (379 Appendix A Subpart F)

4) Equipment Inspection and Maintenance

  1. Driver vehicle inspection reports: 3 months (396.11)
  2. Maintenance records: 18 months after departure from motor carrier’s control (396.3(c))
  3. DOT roadside inspections: 1 year from inspection (396.9)
  4. Periodic inspections: 14 months (396.21)

5) Drug & Alcohol Testing:

  1. 1-5 years depending on the type of data (382.401)

6) Shipping Records

  1. Bills of lading, freight bills, and other shipping documents – 1 year (379 Appendix A Subpart I)
  2. Loading and unloading records – 2 years (379 Appendix A Subpart J)
  3. Weight tickets – 3 years (379 Appendix A Subpart J)

7) Lost Records List: 

for the remainder of the prescribed period (379 Appendix A Subpart M) As you see, the list is long and confusing making it difficult for you to know which records to get and by when. This is where we can help with our expertise.

Which laws really matter?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act requires 1,000 regulations in about 50 sections. Of those, only 10 sections really matter (Holmes Ten Commandments).

  1. Controlled Substance and Alcohol Use and Testing (382)
  2. CDL Standards, Requirements and Penalties (383)
  3. Safety and Fitness (385)
  4. Minimum Levels of Financial Responsibility (387)
  5. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (390.5)
  6. Qualification of Drivers (391)
  7. Driving of Motor Vehicle (392)
  8. Parts and Accessories (393)
  9. Driver’s Hours of Service (395)
  10. Inspection, Repair, Maintenance (396)

Though only 10 sections really matter, they still cover pages of regulations that need to be sifted through in order to ensure your case succeeds. Hiring a competent lawyer is the key to winning your case.

How many hours are truckers allowed to work?

The FMCSA sets out the number of hours truckers can drive. Drivers can only drive for 11 hours total (either consecutively or broken up) before they have to take  10 consecutive hours off of work. They also can only work for 14 hours total before having to take this 10 consecutive hour break, including driving time as well as other work duties. Further, truckers cannot work more than 60 hours in a 7 day period or 70 hours in 8 days.

What Utah laws specifically apply to truckers?

In Paulos v. Covenant Transport, the Utah Court of Appeals confirmed that courts may allow trucking handbooks, like the American Trucking Association Handbook, as a proper standard of safety for truckers even though they cannot include it as evidence. Utah Code limits both the length and weight of semi trucks. It allows semi-trucks to have one trailer of 48 feet or less or two trailers of 61 feet or less total and can range from 10,500 to 80,000 pounds based on the type of axle. Semi-trucks must also have some type of cover or flap behind the back tires to “prevent, as far as practicable, the wheels from throwing dirt, water, or other materials on other vehicles,” unless the truck prevents this by some other means such as body construction (Utah Code). If carrying hazardous material, semi-trucks must follow the U.S. Department of Transportation rules including having a sign indicating  the hazardous material with the truck and fire extinguishers easily accessible (Utah Code). You can find more regulations on Utah’s Trucking Guide. Truckers must also use different types of warning signals if stopped on the side of a road depending on different circumstances listed in the Utah Code. Truck drivers must have a Commercial Driver License (CDL) governed by several rules (Utah Code). This includes the weight limits for truckers, reasons for disqualification or suspension of the license, and regulation of out of state drivers. They also must meet certain physical qualifications ensuring that they can properly operate their truck (Utah Trucking Guide). Because of the many accidents caused by poor vehicle maintenance, truckers must spend 15 minutes inspecting their truck before driving and receive a full inspection every year (Utah Trucking Guide). Utah law also requires the trucking company to carry $1-5 million in insurance because of the potentially large amount of damage accidents can create (Utah Trucking Guide).

What other important information should I be aware of?

Other law firms will use the same accident expert for trucking cases without realizing that this expert will miss important differences in the accident. For example, they may use the first single tire skid marks on the roadway as the initial braking not realizing that the rear dual tires will leave the first skid marks because of the air-brake system. This would destroy all estimates and potentially ruin your case. Many law firms will convince you that they will handle your case better than any others. However, we at Christensen & Hymas believe we can back up that claim. We have successfully helped others with their Utah trucking accident cases and can help bring some peace of mind to you during a difficult time. To read more, visit our article about truck accidents.

Photo courtesy of falco and Pixabay. The image is in the public domain.


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