Federal Trucking Regulations
Federal semi truck driving regulations are extensive, covering topics that range from alcohol consumption to record keeping to training requirements. While liability is typically based on some form of negligent driving, other theories may include breaches of federal regulations that result in some way to the accident and injury.
Semi truck drivers as well as their employers, the semi trucking company, are held to a high standard that requires compliance with all applicable federal regulations. If any failure to follow these and other, regulations result in an accident then the semi-truck driver and perhaps semi trucking company may be held responsible. The ability to prove that certain semi truck driving laws and regulations were not following often requires preserving records and logs that federal law requires be kept for a certain period of time. Waiting to take action on a case may allow a semi truck driver or semi truck company to destroy these records and not face any consequences.
Considering the extensive federal semi truck driving regulations it is important to contact an experienced semi truck accident lawyer to explore all aspects of your case. Generally, federal semi truck driving regulations are found within Chapter 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Of particular focus are the following sections:
- Semi truck Driving Law Regarding – Drinking Alcohol
- Semi truck Driving Law Regarding – License Qualifications
- Semi truck Driving Law Regarding – Semi Truck Driver Qualifications
- Semi truck Driving Law Regarding – Driving Semi trucks
- Semi truck Driving Law Regarding – Semi Truck Equipment
- Semi truck Driving Law Regarding – Drive Time & On-Duty Hours
- Semi truck Driving Law Regarding – Semi truck Maintenance
- Semi truck Driving Law Regarding – Transportation of Hazardous Materials
Alcohol and Semi truck Driving (49 CFR 382)
The use of alcohol and other controlled substances while driving a semi truck is governed in part by 49 CFR 382. Each section addresses a different aspect of drinking alcohol and semi trucks. Some of the relevant sections are:
382.105 Testing Procedures
Employers are responsible for implementing and following alcohol and controlled substance testing in compliance with federal law.
382.121 Employee Admission of alcohol and controlled substance use
Employees may not face otherwise harsh consequences to alcohol or controlled substance use provided they voluntarily admit to misusing alcohol or controlled substances before undertaking any safety-sensitive function. Such rules promote semi truck drivers feeling safe to not drive their big rigs in the event they are drunk.
382.201 Alcohol Concentration
Semi truck drivers are not allowed to drive or do any safety-sensitive function if their alcohol concentration is at or above .04. Employers are also required not to allow semi truck drivers with an alcohol concentration at or above .04 to perform such duties. This alcohol concentration is substantially lower than many state standards.
382.205 On-Duty Use
Semi truck drivers are not allowed to use or consume any amount of alcohol regardless of how much while driving or performing other safety-sensitive functions. Semi truck driver employers are required to not allow any drivers to perform such duties if they have knowledge the semi-truck driver has used any alcohol.
382.207 Pre-Duty Use
Semi truck drivers are not permitted to perform any safety-sensitive function within four hours of having alcohol. Similarly, semi truck driver companies and employers are most not permit a semi-truck driver from performing such actions if they know alcohol has been performed within the past four hours.
382.209 Use Following an Accident
If a semi truck driver is required to take a post-accident alcohol test, they are not permitted to use alcohol until the test is completed or eight hours have passed.
382.213 Controlled Substances Use
Semi truck drivers are not allowed to perform any safety-sensitive function while using any controlled substance unless a medical practitioner gives permission. A semi trucking company is not permitted to allow their drivers to perform such function if they know controlled substances are being used with permission from a medical practitioner or doctor.
382.215 Controlled Substances Testing
Semi truck drivers are not allowed to report to duty or remain on duty or perform a safety-sensitive function if a test shows use of a controlled substance. In the event of such a test result an employer is not allowed to permit the semi truck diver to perform such duties or functions.
382.413 Inquires for controlled substances information from previous employers
Semi truck driver employers must request alcohol and controlled substance information from their employee’s previous employers.
382.601 Alcohol Misuse and Controlled Substances Use Information, Training, and Referral
Semi truck driver employers must set forth a federally compliant alcohol and controlled substance policy. They must educate their drivers on this policy and include information to help their semi truck drivers comply with all portion of the regulations.
License Qualifications (49 CFR 383)
This semi truck driving section focuses on the minimum requirements necessary to obtain and keep a commercial semi truck driver’s license.
383.1 Purpose and Scope
Semi truck driver may only have one commercial driver’s license, notify employers of certain convictions, and may not drive on a suspended license. This section also sets forth some testing requirements necessary to obtain a commercial drivers license.
383.31 Notification of convictions for driver violations
Semi truck drivers are required to inform the relevant person of any and all motor vehicle charges, except for parking tickets, occurring within a certain state. This notification process includes time limits, typically 30 days, and must include other relevant aspects of the charge or violation.
383.33 Notification of driver’s license suspensions
Semi truck drivers must notify relevant individuals including their employers. Such notification must be made with days of the suspension.
383.37 Employer Responsibilities
Semi truck driver employers must not allow their employees to drive big rigs if they driver has lost their commercial drivers license, has more than one commercial driver’s license, as well as in other situations.
383.51 Disqualification of Drivers
Semi truck drivers who lose their commercial driver’s license are not permitted to drive 18-wheelers, big rigs, or other semi trucks or commercial vehicles. Semi truck drivers can lose their license for various amounts of time depending on the nature of their offense. Semi truck driving law takes into consideration the type of offense as well as the semi truck drivers records. A full description of penalties for various semi truck driver offenses is listed in the regulations.
383.71 Testing and Licensing Procedures
Semi truck drivers must complete a knowledge test as well as a driving test. In certain situations, the driver must supply proof citizenship.
383.111 Required Knowledge
Semi truck drivers must be familiar relevant regulations, maintenance requirements, safe operating procedures, and must know the effects of fatigue, poor vision, hearing, and health, and must also know the effects of alcohol and drug use. Semi truck drivers must also be aware of safety control systems including lights, horns, mirrors, fire extinguishers, and other aspects of their semi trucks. In addition, semi truck drivers must be familiar with shifting, reversing, night operation, extreme driving conditions, emergency maneuvers, hazard perceptions, skid control and recovery, vehicle inspections, hazardous materials, and air brake systems.
383.13 Required Skills
In addition to the knowledge requires in 383.111 driving must exhibit skills in basic vehicle control, safe driving, air brakes, inspection, and driving.
383.135 Minimum Passing Scores
Semi truck drivers must score at least an 80% on the knowledge test and demonstrate the ability to successfully perform all skills listed in section 383.113.
Semi truck Driver Qualifications (49 CFR 391)
This section of the semi truck driving regulations sets the qualifications necessary for someone to obtain a semi truck drivers license. The requirements range from minimum age medical conditions.
391.11 General Qualifications of Drivers
Only those qualified to drive semi trucks are allowed to do so. Semi truck drivers must be at least 21, be able to speak and read English, have a valid commercial driver’s license, and among other things has completed the drivers test.
391.13 Responsibilities of Drivers
Semi trucking companies are not allowed to permit employees to drive semi trucks until the drivers can determine if cargo has been properly loaded and distributed, and is familiar with the methods of securing cargo.
391.15 Disqualification of drivers
Disqualified drivers are not permitted to drive semi trucks. Semi truck drivers are considering disqualified for various reasons including certain criminal offenses and loss or suspension of their license. A semi-truck driver is disqualified if they: drive a semi truck while under the influence of alcohol, drive a semi truck with a blood alcohol level at or above .04%, drive under the influence of alcohol as defined by state law, drive a semi-truck under the influence of certain narcotics, transport certain unlawful substances, leave the scene of an accident, or receive a felony conviction involving the use of a semi-truck. Disqualification can last anywhere between three months and three years depending on the conduct.
391.23 Investigation and inquiries
All trucking companies must investigate all potential employees before hiring. The investigation must include a check of the truck driver’s driving record over the past three years, a safety performance review, and a check with all of the driver’s previous employers within three years.
391.25 Annual inquiry and review of driving record
At least once a year a trucking company must check each of their semi truck driver’s driving record. This check must show that the semi-truck driver has not become ineligible to drive semi trucks.
391.41 Physical Qualifications for Drivers
Semi truck drivers must be deemed physically fit and capable. Semi truck drivers are not permitted to drive if they have lost a foot, hand, leg, or arm. Other physical problems that may disqualify a semi truck driver include certain problems with his or her fingers, arm, foot, or leg, insulin dependency, heart disorder, respiratory dysfunction, high blood pressure, arthritis, epilepsy, psychiatric disorder, worse than 20/40 vision, or inadequate hearing.
Driving Semi Trucks (49 CFR 392)
392.2 Applicable Operating Rules
Semi truck drivers are required to follows the laws of the jurisdiction they are driving in. If federal law ever imposes a higher standard than the local state law, the federal law must be following. For example, if a semi-truck driver is driving in New Mexico and the federal regulations are stricter than New Mexico’s, the federal standards will apply.
392.3 Ill or Fatigued Operator
Semi truck drivers are generally not permitted to drive if they are sick, tired, or impaired in any other way that impairs their ability to drive.
392.4 Drugs and Other Substances
Semi truck drivers are not permitted to possess or be under the influence of any amphetamine, narcotic, or other substance which may render the driver incapable of safely operating the big rig.
392.5 Alcohol Prohibition
Semi truck drivers cannot be under the influence of alcohol with 4 hours of driving the semi truck, use alcohol, or have any measured alcohol concentration while on duty.
392.6 Schedules to Conform with Speed Limits
Not only must semi truck drivers obey all speed limits, but the semi truck routes must not be scheduled such that the semi-truck driver is forced to exceed the speed limit to keep up with the schedule.
392.7 Equipment, inspection and use
No semi truck driver is allowed to drive if truck if they suspect the truck’s equipment including brakes, steering, lights, tires, horn, windshield wipers, mirrors, or coupling devices are not working properly.
392.9 Inspection of cargo, cargo securement devices, and systems
Semi truck drivers are not permitted to drive a semi truck unless are cargo is secured, cargo does not obstruct the drivers view or movement. In addition, semi truck drivers carrying cargo must inspect the cargo within the first 50 miles of their trip to make any necessary adjustments. A semi-truck driver must then reexamine and secure cargo whenever the driver changes duty, has been driving for three hours or has been driving for 150 miles.
392.10 Driving of Vehicles
Certain semi trucks with certain loads must observe special rules at railroad crossings. These rules include stopping between 15 and 50 feet of a railroad crossing, listening and looking for an approaching train, and finally cross the track without changing gears.
392.14 Hazardous Conditions; Extreme Caution
Semi truck drivers are required to exercise extreme caution when driving in certain conditions, these conditions include snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke.
392.22 Emergency signals; stopped commercial motor vehicles
Any time a semi truck must stop along a road or the shoulder of a road the semi-truck driver must immediately active hazard lights. The semi truck driver must then place necessary warning devices within 10 minutes. The safety devices must be on the traffic side of the tractor-trailer within 10 feet, at 100 directly behind the big rig, and 100 feet in front of the semi-truck. While these requirements must not be following in all situations, semi truck drivers must also take extra steps when stopped 500 feet of a curve, hill, or other obstruction to a view.
392.33 Use of Lighted Lamps and Reflectors
The reflectors on semi trucks are must not be obscured by any objects, dirt, or equipment.
392.71 Radar Detectors; use and/or possession
Radar detectors and not permitted to be used or equipped in semi trucks.
Semi Truck Equipment (49 CFR 393)
Section 393 addresses the safety and operating equipment standards. This section is divided into subparts addressing various portions of a semi-truck.
393.9 Lamps Reflective Devices, and Electrical Wiring
All lamps on a semi truck must be capable of being operated at all times. Also, all lamps must not be obscured by dirt, other equipment, or another object.
393.11 Lamps and Reflective Devices
In addition to being in working order, lamps and reflective devices must also follow other standards. There are special rules that control the device’s quantity, color, location, position, and height off the roadway.
393.13 Retroflective sheeting and reflex reflectors
While the requirements for reflectors changed in 1993, older semi trucks are required to be retrofitted to meet current law. Retroflective sheeting must be placed on all sides of the trailer or semi-trailer. The strips must be horizontal. There are requirements controlled the minimum amount of reflectors that must be used
Semi truck braking systems must abide by various requirements. These requirements relate to service brakes, hydraulic brakes, air brakes, vacuum brakes, electric brakes, parking brakes, and emergency brakes.
393.78 Windshield wiping and washing systems
All semi trucks must be equipped with a power-driven wiping system consisting of at least two wiper blades.
393.80 Rear-Vision Mirrors
All semi trucks must have two rear-vision mirrors, one on each side of the tractor. Such mirrors must be angled to give the driver a view of the highway to the rear and to both sides of the vehicle.
393.86 Rear Impact Guards and Rear End Protection
Many semi trucks are required to be designed to prevent a vehicle from going under the semi-trailer in the event of a rear-end collision. Federal regulations control the width of these guards, as well as their height, surface size, structure, and labeling.
393.116 -393.120 Specific Requirements By Commodity Type
These regulations state the specific requirements necessary to properly secure cargo such as logs or metal coils.
Semi truck wheels and rims must not be cracked or broken, stud and bolt holes must be round, and nuts and bolts shall not be missing or loose.
393.207 Suspension Systems
Quality control standards are implemented on suspension systems on semi trucks including axles, lead springs, coil springs, torsion bars, air suspensions, and suspension exhaust controls.
393.209 Steering Wheel Systems
A special section of the federal regulations address the requirements for steering systems including the steering wheel lash, the steering column, steering system, and power steering systems.
Drive Time & On-Duty Hours (49 CFR 395.3)
395.3 Maximum Driving Time for Property-Carrying Vehicles
Semi truck drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Truck drivers also may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period. Over the span of 7 days, semi truck drivers are not allowed to drive more than 60 hours. Over the span of 8 days, semi truck drivers are not permitted to drive more than 70 hours. In addition, for drivers using a sleeper birth, they must spend at least 8 hours per day in the sleeper birth and must then split another 2 hours either in the sleeper birth, or off duty.
395.8 Driver’s Record of Duty Status
Semi truck drivers must keep a record every day of their hours on and off duty. These records must be kept on a specific form. The record must include time off duty, time in the sleeper birth, time driving, and time on duty. In addition, the record must include the date, total daily miles driven, truck or tractor and trailer number, the name of the carrier, the driver signature, the 24 hour period start time, the main office address, remarks, the co-driver, total hours, and shipping document numbers.
Semi truck Maintenance (49 CFR 396)
396.3 Inspection, Repair and Maintenance
All Parts and accessories on semi truck must be in safe and proper condition at all times. Maintenance records must be kept for most semi trucks and must include the date of the inspection, maintenance operations to be performed, a record of test conducted, as well as identifying information about the semi-truck These records must be kept and preserved at the place where the semi truck is housed or maintained, and must be kept for a 1 ½ years after the semi truck leaves the motor carrier’s control.
All semi truck must be properly lubricated and free of all oil and grease leaks.
396.7 Unsafe Operations Forbidden
Semi trucks are not allowed to be driven if there is any condition that is likely to cause a breakdown or accident, unless, if the condition is found mid-trip, then the semi truck can be driven to the nearest place possible for service and repairs.
396.9 Inspection of Motor Vehicles in Operation
If a semi truck does not pass inspection it can be declared “out of service”. After receiving a report of the inspection, the trucking company must be notified. Within 15 days of receiving the report, the trucking company must correct all defects and violations and send the report back to the proper agency.
396.11 Driver Vehicle Inspection Report(s)
Semi truck drivers must prepare a report at the end of each day. The report must address the vehicles in operation and must address: brakes, steering mechanisms, lighting and reflector devices, tires, horns, windshield wipers, rear vision mirrors, coupling devices, wheels and rims, and emergency equipment. These reports must include any defect and be signed by all drivers. If the report identifies any defect that affects safety it must be repaired prior to the semi-truck being driven again. These reports must be preserved for three months.
396.13 Driver Inspection
Before driving any semi truck, the truck driver must be satisfied the semi truck is working properly and review that last driver inspection report. If the report that the driver reviews shows any defects or deficiencies it must be signed and certified that proper repairs have been made.
396.17 Periodic Inspection
In addition to daily reports and inspections, all semi truck must be inspected annually.
396.21 Periodic Inspection Recordkeeping Requirements
The annual reports required in section 396.17 must include detailed information and be kept for at least 14 months.
Transportation of Hazardous Materials (49 CFR 397)
397.3 State and Local Laws, Ordinances, and Regulations
Any semi trucks containing hazardous materials must follow strict federal and state rules. In the event that state and federal rules impose different standards the stricter ones apply.
397.5 Attendance and Surveillance of Motor Vehicles
When semi trucks are carrying certain loads semi truck drivers must be awake and within 100 feet of the semi truck and not have an obstructed view of the semi-truck.
When certain hazardous loads are in a semi truck the semi truck must never be parked: within 5 feet of a public highway or street, on private property without the property owner being aware of its presence, or within 300 feet of a bridge, tunnel, dwelling, or palace where people work unless necessary.
When semi trucks are carrying certain hazardous materials, the truck drivers are not allowed to smoke or carry a lit cigarette, cigar, or pipe within 25 feet of the semi-truck.
When semi trucks are carrying certain hazardous cargo, the semi-truck drivers must begin each trip after the vehicle has been parked by checking all tires. If any tires are found to be leaking, improperly inflated, flat, or overheated, the truck driver must repair the tire. If necessary the driver may drive to the nearest possible place for the repairs to occur.