Important Issues in Truck Accident Cases
The issues which make truck accident cases unique are discussed in this section. To begin, instead of dealing with another driver and their insurance company, under the legal theory of Agency, you are dealing with a Commercial trucking company, the professional truck driver, the trucking company’s insurance company and the truck driver’s insurance company.
Furthermore, in addition to Maryland law, trucks are also regulated by Federal regulations which cover the operation and maintenance of trucks.
The Code of Federal Regulations called the “Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations” (FMCSR) applies specifically to trucks and is the safety standard which professional truck drivers and motor carriers are required to follow in the operation of commercial motor vehicles.
The FMCSR focuses on reducing and preventing crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses by requiring professional truck drivers to have a single Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver’s License and by disqualifying drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles in an unsafe manner.
The regulations which deal specifically with commercial trucks are found in Title 49, Parts 350 to 399. Maryland has adopted some of the FMCSR regulations with only minor changes, specifically Parts 382, 390-393, and 395-399 have been incorporated by reference into Maryland law.
Other potential issues in these cases include the truck driver’s violation of regulation with respect to the type of cargo being carried or the length of time spent driving prior to the accident. The investigation into the accident will include reviewing the truck’s black box which measures numerous parameters that can assist in determining how the accident occurred.
The company which hired the driver may also be responsible under the legal theories of Negligent Entrustment or Negligent Supervision if it failed to properly screen the truck driver and the driver’s driving records or failed to properly train the truck driver.
There can also be a claim for Negligent Maintenance if the company or the truck driver failed to properly maintain the truck.
Motor carriers must ensure that all drivers of commercial motor vehicles meet the minimum qualifications specified in the Code of Federal Regulations Parts 383 and 391. Driver qualification regulations apply to all drivers of commercial motor vehicles and to motor carriers, including companies that operate commercial motor vehicles.
The General Requirements for drivers of commercial motor vehicles require that drivers:
- Be in good health and physically able to perform the duties of a driver;
- Be at least 21 years of age;
- Speak and read English well enough to converse with the general public, understand highway traffic signs and signals, respond to official questions, and be able to make legible entries on reports and records;
- Be able to drive the vehicle safely;
- Know how to load and properly, block, brace and secure the cargo;
- Have only one valid commercial motor vehicle operator’s [driver’s] license;
- Provide an employing motor carrier with a list of all motor vehicle violations or a signed statement that the driver has not been convicted of any motor vehicle violations during the past 12 months (a disqualified driver can not drive a commercial motor vehicle for any reason);
- Pass a driver’s road test or equivalent road test (Possession of a valid Commercial Driver’s License with appropriate endorsements is considered proof of equivalent road test);
- Complete a valid application for employment;
- Possess a valid medical certificate.
A driver is disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle on public highways for the following offenses:
- Revocation, suspension or withdrawal of an operator’s license;
- Conviction or forfeiture of bond for the following criminal offenses while driving a commercial motor vehicle;
- Driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol;
- Driving a vehicle while under the influence of a disqualifying drug or other controlled substance;
- Leaving the scene of an accident that involves a commercial motor vehicle;
- Using a commercial motor vehicle to commit a felony;
- Using a commercial motor vehicle to violate an Out-of-Service Order;
- Committing serious, specified traffic violations while driving a commercial motor vehicle. A first offender is disqualified for periods ranging from 60 days to 2 years following conviction or forfeiture of specified offences or for life for specified commercial motor vehicle offenses. For a second or third offense, a driver is disqualified for 3 years to life depending on the offense. Certain offenses permanently disqualify the driver upon the first violation.
A driver is disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle on public highways for Physical disqualification. Physical requirements for a driver specify that the driver has:
- No loss of a foot, a leg, a hand, or an arm;
- No established medical history or clinical diagnosis of diabetes requiring insulin for control;
- No clinical diagnosis of any disqualifying heart disease;
- No clinical diagnosis of high blood pressure. The Department of Transportation’s regulations allow for control of blood pressure by medication and on going monitoring of blood pressure under a health care professional’s supervision;
- No clinical diagnosis of epilepsy;
- 20/40 vision or better with corrective lenses;
- Distant binocular acuity of at least 20/40 in both eyes;
- Ability to recognize the colors (red, green and amber) of traffic signals;
- Ability to hear a forced whisper;
- No history of Schedule I drug use or any other substance identified in Appendix D of the controlled substances testing regulations;
- No clinical diagnosis of alcoholism. General physical requirements for drivers are found in 49 CFR §391.41.
In addition to the other required qualifications, drivers in propane delivery operations must have a current Commercial Driver’s License that documents the correct classification (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) and endorsements (tanker, air brakes, combination vehicles, etc.) for the vehicles types they will operate, and a hazardous materials endorsement for transporting LP-gases:
- A commercial motor vehicle driver is prohibited from having more than one commercial motor vehicle driver’s license under49 CFR § 383.1(b);
- Requires a driver to notify the driver’s current employer and the driver’s State of domicile of certain convictions;
- Requires that a driver provide previous employment information when applying for employment as an operator of a commercial motor vehicle;
- Prohibits an employer from allowing a person with a suspended license to operate a commercial motor vehicle;
- Establishes periods of disqualification and penalties for those persons convicted of certain criminal and other offenses and serious traffic violations, or subject to any suspensions, revocations, or cancellations of certain driving privileges; and sets out other driver qualification requirements.
Rules regarding disqualified drivers are found in § 383.51 of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations and state:
- A driver or holder of a Commercial Driver’s License who is disqualified must not drive a commercial motor vehicle; and
- An employer must not knowingly allow, require, permit, or authorize a driver who is disqualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
Driver offenses that require disqualification carry disqualification periods ranging from 60 days to the lifetime of the driver. A
Applicable offenses apply to driver violations committed in any vehicle, including the driver’s personal vehicle, violations committed while operating a commercial motor vehicle, and violations committed in a commercial motor vehicle that is transporting hazardous materials.
In addition to specific offenses, a driver may be disqualified from holding a Commercial Driver’s License by action of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration if the driver’s record of violations are determined to present “imminent hazard” that warrants disqualification of the driver.
There are no training requirements for the regulations. Some companies provide awareness training in safety meetings or by other means to remind drivers of the offenses and physical conditions that can lead to disqualification.
Periodic review of driver qualification files and checking for expiration dates of Commercial Driver’s License and current driver physical certifications are important compliance measures.
When Driver Violations Reports or the driver’s record reveals that the driver has committed a disqualifying offense, immediate steps should be taken to ensure that the driver does not drive a Commercial Driver’s License or placarded vehicle during the disqualification period.
Additional information and resources are available from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
My Firm knows the Insurance companies’ defense tactics and how to best prepare and present your case to maximize your recovery. As a victim of a truck accident, the insurance company that pays for the injuries, damages and losses in the case will pay for the medical treatment, related expenses and attorney’s fees, and you will be compensated and made whole for the negligence of the other driver so that there is no cost to you.
For more information about your Truck accident case and what you need to do right now, call me directly at: 410-983-3022 and I will discuss, review and evaluate your case with you at no charge. You may also contact me by completing the Contact box on the left side of this page, or by email. You can also protect your case right now by reading my advice in my Free Truck Accident Fact Book.