Both federal and state laws govern the trucking industry. These laws provide standards that trucking companies, truck owners, and truck drivers must meet. Federally, the agencies that regulate the truck driving industry include the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
On a state level, each state has a department of transportation that establishes and enforces its own trucking regulations. Commercial trucks that run only within a state may not be subject to all federal rules. Trucks that run between states are bound to both federal and state laws. Together, federal and state laws are designed to increase the safety of commercial trucks and reduce the number of truck accidents.
Recently, the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS) released a report that says at least 400 new laws need to be enacted nationwide for optimal highway safety, including regulations for the trucking industry. The AHAS is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement, safety groups, and insurance companies working together to make roadways safer. For the trucking industry, the AHAS suggests that emergency braking systems and technology that limits speed can reduce fatal crashes involving commercial trucks. They also recommend underride guards for all trucks, better entry-level driver training, and the screening of drivers for obstructive sleep apnea, which can result in fatigued driving.
Are All Trucking Associations in Agreement About Safety?
Some trucking industry associations do not believe all changes are necessary. For example, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) agrees that better driver training will increase safety, but they maintain that most truck accidents are the fault of drivers of passenger vehicles. They would prefer to see better safety regulations and training for vehicle drivers. The AHAS also cautions that advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) found in passenger vehicles, such as automatic emergency braking systems and lane change warnings, cannot and should not replace well-trained drivers.
While these industry groups and associations work to improve truck safety and reduce accidents, every driver should also take personal responsibility for improving safety on the roads.
Are Truck Accidents Common?
The FMCSA reports the following statistics from 2018, which is the latest year available:
- In 2018, 5,096 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes.
- There was a 34 percent decrease in the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses between 2005 and 2009. This was followed by an increase of 45 percent between 2009 and 2018.
- From 2016 to 2018, large truck crashes increased by eight percent.
Fatal and injury crashes involving large trucks are increasing, according to these statistics. Anyone involved in an accident with a commercial truck should contact a truck accident lawyer for a case consultation. The law provides compensation for damages in truck accident cases.
What are the Current Federal Regulations for the Trucking Industry?
The following is an overview of federal laws for the trucking industry:
- Cargo must be adequately secured with the right devices.
- Loading and unloading must be done according to guidelines.
- Must carry government-mandated insurance for the type of truck; this insurance can help protect victims in a crash caused by a truck driver.
- Must have proper markings identifying them as commercial trucks and indicating the nature of transported goods.
Trucking companies must abide by the following federal regulations:
- Must comply with federal rules for carrying and transporting hazardous materials.
- Must regularly test their truck driver employees for drugs and alcohol.
- Must give truck driver employees specified time off after driving a certain number of hours.
- Trucking companies cannot force truck driver employees to continue driving beyond the allotted hours.
Truck drivers must adhere to the following regulations:
- Must follow federal rules regarding hours of service; they cannot drive beyond allowable hours without resting.
- Must maintain a logbook of their hours of service, including driving and non-driving hours.
- Truck drivers cannot report for duty or drive with a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.02 percent. They cannot ingest any intoxicating substances within a minimum of eight hours before driving.
- A trucker cannot have more than one commercial truck driving license. A license must be issued in the driver’s home state.
Who can be Held Liable for a Truck Accident in Virginia?
In Virginia, liability for truck accidents is based on negligence. The victim of a crash with a truck must establish fault to receive compensation from the at-fault party. Unlike many states, Virginia truck accident victims cannot collect damages if they were even slightly at fault. For example, although it may be proven that a truck driver was primarily liable for an accident, if it can also be proven that the plaintiff was distracted in some way just before the crash, they most likely cannot collect damages.
Various parties in an accident involving a commercial truck may be found negligent:
- Truck driver
- Trucking company or owner
- Leasing company
- Manufacturer and assembler
- Shipper or loader
Potential liabilities include the following:
- Driver fatigue
- Driver distraction, such as cellphone or radio use
- Truck drivers not following federal laws for rest breaks
- Speeding or not obeying other traffic laws
- Lack of driver training
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Truck carrying more weight than allowed by law
- Improperly loaded truck
- Trucks that are not adequately inspected, maintained, or repaired
- Faulty truck tires
- Failed braking systems
What Damages can I Recover in a Truck Accident?
Every accident has unique circumstances, but a truck accident lawyer will work to recover some or all of the following losses:
- Costs for current and future medical bills, including surgeries, hospital stays, rehabilitation, long-term or skilled nursing care, home care, therapy services, medications, and medical equipment.
- Lost wages for missed work and lost future earning power if the victim cannot return to work.
- Wrongful death on the behalf of the family of a loved one who was killed in a truck accident.
- Pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-economic losses.
Do Trucking Companies Try to Get Out of Paying for Damages?
Generally, truck drivers, trucking companies, and insurance companies will try to avoid liability by defending themselves in various ways:
- Deny the driver was an actual employee of the company.
- Refute ownership of the tractor or trailer.
- Place blame on other related parties, such as a maintenance company or cargo loader.
- Try to prove that a victim’s injuries were not caused by the accident.
- Question the damages or amount of damages the victim is seeking.
- Offer to settle for much less than the accident victim is entitled to receive.
- Try to intimidate the victim by bringing up their past driving records, arrests, or other history.
Pursuing damages in a truck accident case can be a daunting process. Various parties are often involved and may be held liable. The victim must prove that the truck was 100 percent at fault, but a truck accident lawyer can help. After proving negligence, negotiations for settlement will occur with the help of an experienced lawyer. If the parties cannot reach a fair and just settlement, a lawyer will prepare a strong case to take to court
Virginia Beach Truck Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Negotiate and Litigate on Behalf of Truck Accident Victims
If you were hurt in a truck collision, a Virginia Beach truck accident lawyer at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC will fight to obtain the maximum amount of compensation that is available under the law. Contact us online or call 757-LAW-0000 for a free consultation about your case. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we represent clients in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.