The increasing number of accidents involving large trucks and the severity of the injuries they cause is a serious problem for motorists. While the effects of accidents involving 18-wheelers like the one pictured can be devastating, smaller commercial vehicles also pose a common safety risk. Trucks driven by plumbers, grass cutters, cable installers, florists, and other businesses rely on a fleet of vehicles to deliver their products or services. Are they held to the same safety regulations as larger vehicles?
The Role of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Fortunately the answer is yes — depending on several factors. The FMCSA is the federal government agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The primary goal of the agency is to reduce crashes and the resulting injuries and fatalities caused by large trucks and buses but it also has jurisdiction over smaller vehicles. States also have laws related to the license and driving requirements for commercial vehicles. Any business using commercial motor vehicles must obtain authority from both state and federal trucking authorities.
Trucking safety regulations are important to every driver on the road. We share the roadways with all types of commercial trucks every day. While the FMCSA determines the regulations for all types of CMVs, it is up to the employers and the drivers to enforce them. A personal injury lawyer often finds that businesses and employers have failed to abide by federal trucking safety rules and are also at fault.
Which Vehicles Are Covered?
The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and the number of passengers a vehicle determines if a driver must have a commercial drivers license. CDL licenses ensure that drivers have increased training to handle a variety of conditions. Laws pertaining to the application and licensing process differ somewhat among the states. One consistency is that any vehicle with a weight of more than 26,001 pounds requires CDL licensure.
Businesses that operate CMVs that alone (or combined with a trailer) weigh more than 10,001 pounds are required to register the vehicles and abide by the FMCSA trucking safety regulations. Some states have increased this weight limit to include trucks anywhere from 12,000 to 26,000 pounds, which coincides with the CDL requirements. Although a vehicle doesn’t require a CDL driver, many companies require the drivers to follow the same trucking safety regulations imparted by FMCSA.
The key is understanding the different classes of CDL and weights that apply to different types of vehicles:
Class A – Single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, or a combination of vehicles with the towed vehicle having a GVWR over 10,000 pounds.
Class B – Single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or more, or is towing a vehicle with a GVWR of no more than 10,000 pounds, or a farm trailer with a GVWR of no more than 20,000 pounds.
Class C – A single or combination vehicle not included in Classes A or B. Single vehicles with a GVWR less than 26,001 pounds or towing a farm trailer with a GVWR of no more than 20,000 pounds. A vehicle designed to transport 23 or fewer passengers including the driver. An autocycle.
Some of the most important regulations that apply to CDL drivers are the prohibitions against using alcohol, drugs, texting, hand-held phones, and driving while fatigued. These are some of the leading causes of truck crashes. Both CDL and non-CDL must follow these regulations and others, including using their seat belts and use of extreme caution during hazardous weather.
If you have been injured in an accident involving any commercial vehicle, contact Bill Berenson Injury Law. If the driver and/or the employer were negligent, you may have the right to collect compensation.