Special Issues in Trucking Accidents

Any type of car accident can be complex. However, as an attorney who has represented parties on both sides of truck and commercial vehicle accidents, I can tell you that investigating a collision involving a truck is far more complicated than one involving only cars. In addition to the usual car accident issues, investigating trucking accidents also requires inquiry into numerous other areas such as driver sleep patterns, cargo content and vehicle maintenance.

Trucks are subject to much more stringent regulation than passenger vehicles. Both state and federal regulations require regular maintenance and inspection and limit the amounts of cargo trucks can carry. Regulations promulgated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) limit the number of hours commercial drivers can spend on duty. These regulations, effective July 1, 2013, state that drivers:

  • May not drive more than 11 hours without going off duty for at least 10 hours
  • May not drive more than eight hours without taking at least a 30-minute break
  • May not drive more than 60 hours in a seven-day period
  • May not drive more than 70 hours in an eight-day period

Drivers must keep detailed logbooks to show their compliance with these rules. When a driver violates these rules and is involved in an accident that appears to have been caused by fatigue, it creates a strong presumption that the driver was at fault. Plaintiff’s attorneys frequently examine these logbooks to discover evidence of noncompliance or falsification. Even if violations took place, transportation company attorneys may argue that fatigue was not the cause of the accident or invoke contributory negligence by arguing the plaintiff was partially at fault.

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