One of the things that makes truck accident cases unique is the complex laws that big trucks are subject to. This page will look at the state and federal laws and regulations that apply to commercial trucking and how they can impact the outcome of truck accident cases in certain situations. Keep in mind that commercial trucking law includes a intricate mix of both federal laws and regulations that apply to "interstate trucking" and Maryland state laws and regulations covering "intrastate trucking."Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR)
In the early days of automobiles there were very few laws or regulations governing the operation of motor vehicles. As the number of vehicles on the road rapidly started to expand during the 1920s, the public roads started to become a very dangerous place. In 1935, in response to the growing number of serious and fatal car and truck accidents in the United States, Congress passed the Motor Carrier Act. The Act created the Bureau of Motor Carriers of the Interstate Commerce Commission (the "ICC"). Incredibly, for better and for worse, this law and the bureaucratic framework it created remains the to keep truck drivers safe - and us safe from them.
It was not a perfect law and still is not. Commercial trucks are still too unsafe and are causing too many deaths a year. But this is the law and lawyers handling truck crash claims need to understand this law to understand the truck driver's legal obligations in liability dispute cases and to understand the insurance issues in these cases to maximize the available insurance which is often key in making serious injury and wrongful death truck accident claims.
The ICC promulgates and enforces safety regulations for the commercial trucking industry. The safety regulations developed by the ICC are called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). These regulations are found in the Code of Federal Regulations. The FMCSR states that the purpose of these regulations is to "help reduce or prevent truck and bus accidents, fatalities and injuries by requiring drivers to have a single commercial motor vehicle driver's license and by disqualifying drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles in an unsafe manner." See 49 CFR 383.1(a). Again, the licensing process is far from perfect. There are still too many truck drivers on the road with commercial trucking licenses that should not have them.
The FMCSR cover virtual every possible aspect of operating a big rig truck including:
- Driver drug testing requirements
- Standards for Commercial Driver Licenses
- Insurance and financial responsibility requirements
- Driver qualifications
- Safe operation of commercial vehicles
- Maximum hours of service for drivers
- Inspection, maintenance and repair of vehicles
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established in 2000 as part of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. The FMCSA collects data on commercial trucking accidents and safety and then uses that data to develop new or amended trucking regulations. The FMCSA is also tasked with overseeing the national enforcement of trucking safety regulations through collaboration with various state and federal agencies. FMCSA's primary program is Compliance, Safety Accountability (CSA). The goal of the CSA program is to monitor safety performance through crash investigations, roadside inspections, and the issuance of noncompliance citations. The agency uses complex analytical algorithms to help identify non-compliance and unsafe trucking companies. This enables them to target their enforcement efforts.Maryland Commercial Driving Laws
Maryland truck accident lawyers need to be familiar with Title 49, Parts 350 to 399 of the FMCSR which deal specifically with commercial trucks. While the trucking industry was deregulated substantially in the last 20 years and the licensing and monitoring of professional truck drivers is now handled on the state level, the FMCSR continues to provide safety standards by which professional truck drivers and motor carriers are required to follow in the operation of commercial motor vehicles.
The FMCSR standards apply to all interstate trucking operations in the United States, including Maryland. With respect to intrastate trucking (truck operating only in Maryland), Maryland has adopted virtually some of the FMCSR regulations with change, specifically Parts 382, 390-393, and 395-399 have been incorporated by reference into Maryland law with only minor exceptions (such a Part 391 exception for farmers transporting by truck farm products within 150 miles of the farm).
- Maryland Truck Accidents (overview of truck accident lawsuits)
- Truck Accident Safety Study (what causes truck accidents?)
- Personal Injury Victim Help Center
- Federal Regulation on Truck Driver's Obligation to Secure the Truck's Load
- Accident Risks Associated with Big Rig Trucks