TRUCKING ACCIDENT LAWYERS ATLANTA GA

In the wrong hands, a truck or tractor trailer can quickly become a deadly weapon. Any trucking accident lawyers Atlanta GA can rely on can tell you that that’s why the federal government develops and enforces guidelines for truck drivers and trucking companies. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA) is a set of regulations governing driving hours, drug and alcohol testing requirements, vehicle maintenance, transportation of hazardous materials, and anything else related to driving and maintaining commercial trucks. If a truck driver or trucking company ignores these rules, we’re ready to fight for you in court.

MOTOR VEHICLE INSPECTION

The FMCSA, specifically § 396, requires periodic inspection of all motor vehicles to ensure the vehicles are safe to operate. During the inspection, a qualified inspector must test each of the following components:

  • Service Brakes
  • Windshield Wipers
  • Rims
  • Steering column
  • Wheels
  • Windshield Glazing
  • Suspension
  • Lights and reflectors
  • Tires
  • Safety devices
  • Vacuum systems

trucking accident lawyers Atlanta GAThe inspector must look for any defects that would impair the safe operation of the vehicle. For example, if the brake pads are worn down, there is a risk the driver won’t be able to stop the vehicle in time to avoid an accident. If a trucking company does not inspect vehicles as required, or ignores an inspector’s concerns, the company should be held responsible for any accidents that occur as a result of defective or damaged parts. Annual inspections must be conducted by qualified inspectors who understand the requirements outlined in § 393 of the FMCSA.

Under § 396.11, commercial drivers are required to complete daily inspection reports when they finish driving for the day. The report must identify the vehicle and list any problems that came up during the inspection. Motor carriers must certify that all defects and deficiencies have been repaired.

If you’ve been in an accident and have questions regarding federal truck driving laws, contact the trucking accident lawyers Atlanta GA trust with their accident cases to help you better understand.

ALCOHOL AND DRUG TESTING

Any of the trucking accident lawyers Atlanta GA drivers can trust will tell you that commercial vehicles are dangerous enough on their own. If a driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol, the results can be deadly. In 1991, Congress passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act, which required all Department of Transportation (DOT) agencies to implement testing rules for employees with safety-sensitive duties. Under the FMCSA, trucking companies must test any driver who operates a commercial truck. The testing requirements are the same whether the employee works full-time or part-time.

DOT drug tests require testing for the following drugs:

  • Cocaine
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)
  • Marijuana
  • Methamphetamines and amphetamines
  • Opiates

DOT drug tests also identify drivers with blood alcohol concentrations of 0.02 or higher.

Under FMCSA rules, trucking companies must perform drug tests at the following times:

1.

Before allowing a new employee to operate a commercial vehicle

2.

After an accident causing a human fatality

3.

After an accident causing immediate bodily injury requiring medical treatment away from the scene, but only if a citation is issued to the driver

4.

After an accident causing disabling damage to any motor vehicle, but only if a citation is issued to the driver

5.

If there is reasonable suspicion that a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol

6.

Before permitting a driver who previously tested positive to return to duty

7.

At random intervals throughout the year

If a driver refuses to submit to a drug test, the refusal is equivalent to receiving a positive test result. Therefore, the driver must be removed from performing any safety-sensitive functions until he or she completes the return-to-duty process.

Drug testing guidelines are in place for a reason. Drugs and alcohol impair judgment and reasoning skills, and they often play a role in fatal accidents. If a trucking company does not test employees as required, or if a driver causes an accident while under the influence, the trucking accident lawyers Atlanta GA rely upon at Butler Tobin know how to review the accident report and action against those responsible for your injuries.

HAZARDOUS MATERIALS

Hazardous materials must be packaged, marked, and labeled correctly before they are transported via commercial vehicle. Each motor carrier must also obtain a Hazardous Materials Safety Permit before transporting highly hazardous materials. This permit is required to transport radioactive materials, certain quantities of explosive materials, liquefied natural gas, compressed or refrigerated liquefied methane, or certain materials that are poisonous if inhaled.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also has training requirements for drivers who haul hazardous waste. The required training must address the following:

  • The presence of safety and health hazards at the work site
  • Proper use of personal protective equipment
  • Safe use of equipment and engineering controls
  • Work practices to help employees minimize the risks associated with handling hazardous materials

HOURS OF SERVICE

Fatigued drivers are more likely to make mistakes, which is why the FMCSA includes rules related to hours of service. Drivers must comply with hours-of-service requirements if they engage in interstate commerce and drive a truck meeting one of the following descriptions:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more, including cargo
  • Has a gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Transports hazardous materials in quantities great enough to require a placard

The FMCA regulates the number of hours truckers are allowed to drive within a certain amount of time. One of the most important rules is the 14-hour driving window, which limits commercial drivers from driving more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period. Once the 14-hour period ends, a truck driver must go off duty for 10 consecutive hours.

Drivers are also limited to 60 to 70 hours of duty in a period of seven or eight days. If a trucking company does not operate vehicles seven days per week, then company drivers cannot drive commercial vehicles for more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days. If the company operates vehicles seven days per week, drivers are not allowed to drive commercial vehicles after being on duty for 70 hours in eight consecutive days. There is a legal way for drivers and their employees to get around the 60/70-hour rule. If a driver is off duty or in the sleeper berth of the truck for at least 34 hours, the clock resets. Finally, trucks are required to take a 30-minute break within the first 8 hours of their shift.

When drivers do not follow these rules, serious accidents are more likely to occur. One of the most notable examples in recent memory is the case of the driver who crashed into a limousine van carrying Tracy Morgan and another comedian. The driver, who had been awake for 28 hours prior to the crash, did not slow down when he should have. Wal-Mart settled with Tracy Morgan for an undisclosed sum, and the driver responsible for the accident was indicted on criminal charges.

 HOURS OF SERVICE REQUIREMENTS

Weighs 10,001 pounds or more, including cargo

Has a gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more

Transports hazardous materials in quantities great enough to require a placard

The FMCA regulates the number of hours truckers are allowed to drive within a certain amount of time. One of the most important rules is the 14-hour driving window, which limits commercial drivers from driving more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period. Once the 14-hour period ends, a truck driver must go off duty for 10 consecutive hours.

Drivers are also limited to 60 to 70 hours of duty in a period of seven or eight days. If a trucking company does not operate vehicles seven days per week, then company drivers cannot drive commercial vehicles for more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days. If the company operates vehicles seven days per week, drivers are not allowed to drive commercial vehicles after being on duty for 70 hours in eight consecutive days. There is a legal way for drivers and their employees to get around the 60/70-hour rule. If a driver is off duty or in the sleeper berth of the truck for at least 34 hours, the clock resets. Finally, trucks are required to take a 30-minute break within the first 8 hours of their shift.

When drivers do not follow these rules, serious accidents are more likely to occur. One of the most notable examples in recent memory is the case of the driver who crashed into a limousine van carrying Tracy Morgan and another comedian. The driver, who had been awake for 28 hours prior to the crash, did not slow down when he should have. Wal-Mart settled with Tracy Morgan for an undisclosed sum, and the driver responsible for the accident was indicted on criminal charges.

DOT MEDICAL EXAMS

To obtain a commercial driver’s license and maintain that license in good standing, commercial drivers must submit to physical exams as required by the Department of Transportation. Every DOT medical exam must be performed by one of the qualified examiners listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration National Registry.

DOT exams are designed to identify physical and psychological problems that affect a driver’s ability to operate a commercial vehicle in a safe manner. Before having a DOT exam, a commercial driver must provide a complete health history to the examiner. DOT examiners typically ask about the following medical problems:

  • Head and brain injuries
  • Eye problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Epilepsy/seizures
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack
  • Implantable medical devices
  • High blood pressure
  • Respiratory problems
  • Kidney disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Strokes

During this type of physical, the examiner performs vision and hearing tests, records the driver’s blood pressure and pulse, and performs a thorough physical examination. Upon completion of the physical, the examiner fills out a medical certificate for the driver. The certificate indicates whether the driver qualifies for a two-year certificate, qualifies for a certificate with periodic monitoring required, or does not meet the standards for receiving a DOT medical certificate.

If periodic monitoring is required, the driver may be qualified for three months, six months, one year, or another period of time specified by the examiner. Additionally, the examiner must indicate whether the driver needs to wear a hearing aid or corrective lenses to operate a commercial vehicle safely. Upon completion of the physical, the examiner retains a copy of the medical certificate for three years. Drivers have the option of purchasing a medical card or printing their medical certificates on cardstock.

REQUIRED FORMS AND CERTIFICATES

The DOT requires trucking companies to obtain a variety of forms when interviewing and hiring drivers. For example, motor carriers are required to fill out the Request for Check of Driving Records before allowing a driver to operate a commercial vehicle. Trucking companies must also contact previous employers to verify the employment history provided by an applicant. Motor carriers or commercial drivers may also need to fill out the following firms:

  • Certification of Road Test
  • Certification of Compliance with Driver License Requirements
  • Driver Statement of On-Duty Hours
  • Driver Qualification and Identification Certificate

There are many rules governing the operation of commercial vehicles. These rules are in place for a reason: a commercial vehicle can easily injure or kill innocent crash victims. Large vehicles are also capable of causing significant property damage. If you were injured in a truck accident, we can’t take away your injuries or restore your vehicle to its pre-accident condition, but the trucking accident lawyers Atlanta GA drivers trust at Butler Tobin can help you hold the truck driver and trucking company responsible.

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