Trucking Laws and Regulations

Trucking Laws and Regulations

There are many laws and regulations that truckers and trucking companies must follow to ensure safety on American roads. However, not everyone plays by the rules, and unfortunately, truck accidents happen every day — often with catastrophic results.

Your injuries could be life-altering if you’ve been involved in such an accident. Our truck crash attorneys at Nix Patterson will review your case for free to determine if there is a potential claim, but as part of that process, it might help to have a basic understanding of the rules and regulations that truckers must abide by. While this article is meant to be informative, it should not be taken as legal advice for any particular case. For legal advice, please call today.

FMCSA Trucking Rules Overview

FMCSA rules cover all commercial trucks. This includes tractor-trailers, tanker trucks, and any other commercial vehicles. The rules overall address the following areas:

  • Truck driver qualifications. Truckers must be at least 21, have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL), and be able to speak and understand basic English.
  • Commercial truck operation. Truckers must comply with laws that prohibit drug and alcohol use when they are driving. They also must submit to physical examinations periodically.
  • Truck inspection, maintenance, and repair. Companies must make sure all vehicles are safe for the road by conducting regular safety inspections. Parts, systems, and accessories must be reviewed regularly.
  • Minimum insurance requirements. Companies and drivers must carry more accident liability coverage than passenger vehicle drivers. The FMCSA requires trucks to have at least $750,000 and up to $5 million in coverage, depending on what is being transported. Some state laws require even higher insurance limits.

Hours-of-Service Regulations

The FMCSA has strict rules about how truckers can drive in a given period. These are called hours-of-service regulations. The regulations vary depending on whether the truck carries goods or passengers:

Carrying Goods

  • Truckers can drive up to 14 consecutive hours after a 10-hour break.
  • Truckers must take at least a 30-minute rest every eight-hours of driving.
  • Truckers can drive no more than 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days.

Carrying Passengers (e.g. Busses)

  • Drivers can drive up to 15 consecutive hours after a 10-hour break.
  • Drivers can drive up to 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in eight days.

Unfortunately, there are many truck accidents where drivers exceed their hour-of-service limits, often to meet a company mandated delivery time. Nix Patterson truck accident attorneys always investigate crashes to determine if driver fatigue was a factor.

Alcohol and Drug Testing

The FMCSA has detailed rules for alcohol and drug testing for commercial truck drivers. The rules are laid out in 49 CFR Part 40. If the trucking company does not follow the alcohol and drug testing regulations, it can be penalized. Drug and alcohol tests are usually administered during hiring, after a truck accident, and randomly during the year. The FMCSA requires trucking companies to test for the following substances:

  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Opiates
  • Amphetamines and methamphetamines
  • Phencyclidine

Truck Inspection Regulations

490 CFR 396.11 states that every tractor-trailer driver must report safety inspections on trucks they drive at the end of their shift. Every safety report has to pinpoint any issues that could make the truck dangerous to drive the next day. In addition, the report should include any defects or broken parts that must be repaired.

If a defective or broken part led to your truck accident, Nix Patterson will investigate the issue and fight for compensation.

How Trucking Laws Affect Personal Injury Claims

The federal government sets the rules and regulations above to keep the roads safe. If a truck driver fails to follow any of the regulations noted above and causes an accident, there can be horrific injuries and damages. Common causes of truck accidents that these laws are meant to reduce include:

  • Falling asleep behind the wheel
  • Driving drunk or under the influence of drugs
  • Distracted driving
  • Insufficient driver training

Our lawyers will immediately request records from the company to preserve the accident evidence and evidence of any of the above. We know to pursue this documentation and data immediately so the company cannot destroy incriminating electronic or paper evidence.

What Are the Most Common Truck Driver Violations?

Truck drivers and companies must adhere to the rules to keep American roads safe. Unfortunately, however, frequent accidents involve truckers breaking the rules. These violations are the most common:

  • Lack of driver log. Hour-of-service rules require each truck driver to record their duty status, which is driving; on duty and not driving; off duty; and in the sleeper berth. The trucker or his company may be hiding rule violations if the log is missing or inaccurate.
  • Driving over the hour limit since the trucker’s last off-duty period. Violating this rule is a common reason for driver fatigue-related accidents.
  • Driver does not speak English. The driver must be able to read and speak English enough to understand signs and signals.
  • While excessive speeds can cause the most dangerous accidents, driving only six to ten MPH over the limit is the most common speeding violation.
  • Not wearing a seatbelt. All truck drivers must wear seatbelts.

What Are the Most Common Truck Vehicle Violations?

These are the most common FMCSA commercial vehicle violations that may lead to serious truck accidents:

  • The truck needs the required lights and lamps. FMCSA states that trucks must have specific kinds of laps, reflective devices, and related equipment.
  • Brakes not adjusted properly. Defective brakes cause many tractor-trailer accidents. Trucking rules and regulations state certain brake adjustments to a fraction of an inch for eight roto-chamber and nine clamp-type brake chambers.
  • The depth of the tire tread is below 2/32 of an inch. Tire blowouts and avoidable sliding also cause many truck accidents.
  • Grease and oil leaks. The company must ensure that each truck is lubricated and does not have oil and grease leaks.

Consult With a Nix Patterson Truck Accident Lawyer

If you were in a truck accident and the driver was responsible, Nix Patterson will determine if they did not comply with trucking rules and regulations. After the investigation, you could receive compensation for medical bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. Contact us today for a complimentary legal consultation about your truck accident case.


Nix Patterson only works on a contingency fee basis. Our clients pay us nothing unless we win. Schedule a free consultation today. Call 512.328.5333 or complete the form below. 

PA Contact Form

"*" indicates required fields


Related Pages

$ 0 Billion
Recovered in Verdicts and Settlements