One of the most important things about the Constitution of the United States is how it outlines how and when the federal government can act. By limiting what it can do and preventing it from doing anything that is not expressly allowed, the Constitution provides plenty of freedom to the states in the U.S. to do what they want.
However, one of the things that the Constitution allows the federal government to do is to regulate commerce that goes from one state to another. This has a huge impact on the trucking industry in Maryland because nearly all of it involves moving goods across state lines, either into or out of Maryland. These federal truck regulations have a say on how things are done in nearly all of the aspects involved in trucking and are meant to ensure that drivers are kept safe on the highways and truckers are not unfairly overworked.
Federal Regulations that Deal with Trucking
The federal regulations that deal with trucking come from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA is the federal agency that is responsible for overseeing common carriers and trucking companies in the U.S., giving them the power to issue regulations, laws, and other rules and guidelines that either legally bind the trucking world or try to direct it in certain ways.
These regulations are found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Here are some of the most important provisions for truckers and other drivers in the state of Maryland.
Hours of Service Regulations
One of the most important regulations promulgated by the FMCSA in recent years has been those dealing with the hours of service that truckers can perform in a given timeframe.
Numerous studies had shown that truck drivers who were behind the wheel for a long period of time since their last break was far more likely to cause a serious truck accident than those who were just getting started on their route. In order to cut down on this effect of driver fatigue, the FMCSA issued a regulation, 49 C.F.R. § 395, that outlined how long truckers could be behind the wheel before they needed to take a break, and how many hours truckers could spend driving in a given week.
Importantly, the hours of service regulation prohibits truck drivers from going more than 8 hours without taking at least a 30-minute break. The regulation also prevents truckers from driving more than 11 hours after any 10 consecutive hours spent off-duty, and from spending more than 60 hours on-duty in a period of 7 consecutive days.
Under the hours of service regulation, truckers are also required to log their time on the road, either in log books or electronically, so the regulation can be enforced. However, because most truck drivers get paid by the mile rather than by the hour, any time they spend stationary is unpaid. This gives them a strong incentive to falsify their log books in order to keep driving. Unfortunately, this is something that the regulation has no consistent way of enforcing, putting drivers and others on the road at risk of a fatigued truck driver who has lied in his or her logbook.
Commercial Drivers' License Regulations
One of the biggest and most important provisions dealing with trucking in Maryland is how commercial drivers get their licenses to drive. 49 C.F.R. § 383 deals with this aspect of trucking, outlining how commercial drivers can get a license to operate a given type of vehicle, how they can lose their license, and what they need to do in order to keep theirs, once obtained. While the truck driver's home state is the one responsible for doing the testing and logistics, all of the federal regulations need to be satisfied in order for the trucker to be allowed on the road in interstate commerce.
These requirements include knowledge and skill tests, which vary depending on what kind of commercial license is being pursued. For example, if a commercial driver wants to be able to drive a truck that can carry hazardous material or liquids, they need to pass skills testing that shows they know how to drive an appropriate vehicle for the cargo.
Regulations Dealing with Alcohol and Drugs
Because truck accidents are far more severe than crashes involving just passenger cars, and because being impaired by alcohol or drugs greatly increases the risk of such a crash, the FMCSA's regulations also include a section dealing with impaired driving and trucking. This section, 49 C.F.R. § 382, handles how truckers can be guilty of operating under the influence (OUI), even though they have a lower legal limit than drivers of regular passenger vehicles. The section also deals with the increased penalties that come with a conviction, including license suspensions that are longer for commercial drivers than they are for personal drivers, and license terminations that are far more strict than normal.
Finally, the regulation also outlines appropriate ways of handling drug testing and screening for truck drivers, whether the testing comes as part of the employment decision, in the immediate aftermath of a truck accident, and for random testing.
Maryland Truck Accident Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian
These and other federal regulations in Title 49 are some of the biggest protections that members of the public have against risky and dangerous trucking practices that can cause a serious truck crash. Unfortunately, many trucking companies and truck drivers do not take these regulations very seriously, and enforcement mechanisms are not strong enough to deter them from violating the law. When this happens and it causes a truck accident in Maryland that hurts you or someone you love, you should be compensated for your losses because you were not the one who was responsible for them.
This is when to contact the personal injury and truck accident attorneys at the law office of Gilman & Bedigian. By fighting for your legal rights and interests, we can ensure you get the compensation that you need and deserve. Contact us online or call us at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation.