Thursday, December 17, 2009

5 Questions About North Carolina Truck Accidents Answered

Will Owens is a member of the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, which is a national association of committed lawyers who have joined together to help eliminate unsafe and illegal interstate trucking practices.
1. What is a "commercial truck"?
A commercial truck is a vehicle used in the course of business and/or for the transport of commercial goods. Examples are eighteen-wheeler tractor trailers, tanker trucks, delivery vehicles, and other large freight trucks.

2. What are some of the common causes of tractor trailer accidents?
• Aggressive drivers
• Unrealistic schedules
• Failure to inspect tires, brakes and lights
• Tailgating
• Long work-shifts
• Driver fatigue
• Cell phone use
• Failure to install blind spot mirrors
• Jackknifing
• Speeding and ignoring reduced truck speed limit

Added hazards include the absence of rear and side bumpers and high front bumpers that punch into automobile passenger compartments. Together these factors account for the high percentage of serious injuries and deaths in these crashes.

3. Who makes sure that big trucks and trucking companies are following the rules?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is in charge with promulgating regulations to keep us safe on the road. The rules are expansive and cover all aspects of commercial driving including the driver (e.g. training, drug and alcohol testing and licensing), the vehicle (e.g. transportation of hazardous materials, inspection and repair) and the carrier (e.g. insurance, records and maintenance). In North Carolina, enforcement of these regulations, and other state laws, falls to the State Highway Patrol’s Motor Carrier Enforcement.

4. What are the “hours of service” rules?
Under federal “hours of service” regulations, which took effect January 2004, interstate commercial drivers are not allowed to drive more than 11 consecutive hours or drive after 14 hours on duty until they have had a 10-hour break. In addition, according to federal regulations, commercial truck drivers cannot drive after accruing 60 work hours during a 7-day period or 70 work hours during an 8-day period.

5. Are there any state or federal regulations governing truck drivers?
There are many regulations, both state and federal, that trucking companies are required to follow. Some of those laws include the following:

• Trucking companies are required to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulations concerning equipment and hours of service.

• Truck drivers are required to maintain a driver’s log.

• Federal regulations require commercial trucks to carry certain levels of insurance coverage, depending on the nature of the materials hauled. These regulations protect victims of large truck crashes from truck owners who may not have the financial resources to pay damages out-of-pocket.

• The Commercial Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program requires that individual States, and other political jurisdictions unify to develop and implement programs that will ultimately improve motor carrier, CMV, and driver safety and establish a safer and more efficient transportation system.

• Commercial driver’s license standards are federal regulations in place to reduce or prevent truck accidents and resulting injuries and/or deaths by requiring drivers of certain vehicles to obtain a single commercial motor vehicle driver's license.

• Both North Carolina State and / or federal law, depending on whether the truck was involved in intrastate or interstate transport may govern truck accidents.

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