Are There Special Rules that Apply to Commercial Trucks in Texas?

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In Texas, drivers of commercial motor vehicles, 18-wheelers, and large trucks are strictly regulated by specialized rules put in place by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act (FMCSA).

From rules dictating who can operate a commercial vehicle to rules limiting the number of consecutive hours a driver can spend behind the wheel, these regulations have been put in place to help keep other drivers safe. When drivers fail to comply by these rules, tragedy can occur.

It also is important to note that trucking regulations are not limited to drivers, but also affect commercial transportation companies as a whole, setting requirements which commercial trucking companies, managers, and fleet operators must meet.

Examples of Commercial Vehicle Regulations

While trucking regulations do vary by state, there are federal guidelines by which all commercial vehicle drivers and fleet operators must abide. These regulations are codified in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulation.

A few of the most important federal commercial motor vehicle regulations are:

  • Drivers must be 21 years of age or older to drive across state lines or operate a vehicle containing hazardous materials.
    • Texas truck drivers must be at least 18 years old to operate within state lines.
  • To be eligible for a CDL, drivers must have no prior disqualifying criminal offenses.
  • Prior to obtaining a CDL, drivers must test for and obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) and hold it for 14 days.
  • In order to obtain a commercial learner’s permit, drivers must be cleared by a qualified medical examiner that they are physically able to operate a commercial vehicle.
  • For commercial motor vehicle operators, the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is .04, compared to .08 for regular drivers.
  • Truck drivers are banned from using handheld mobile phones while driving. Trucking companies are prohibited from allowing or requiring drivers to use handheld devices while driving.
  • Drivers are prohibited from holding a CDL issued by more than one state or jurisdiction.

Rules Regulating the Number of Hours a Truck Driver can Drive

One of the most important regulations for commercial motor vehicle drivers is the Hours of Service (HOS) regulation. Property-carrying commercial motor vehicle drivers:

  • may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
  • may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
  • Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.

According to an AAA Foundation study, driving while drowsy can have similar effects on operating a vehicle as driving drunk. The study says drivers with only four or five hours of sleep had an equivalent increase risk of crash as those with a blood alcohol content (BAC) between .12 and .15 (reminder: .04 is the legal BAC limit for commercial truck drivers).

What are the Most Common Causes of Trucking Accidents

There are many different factors that can cause a trucking accident. Here are some of the most common causes of Texas trucking accidents:

  • Truck driver is fatigued or drowsy
  • Drug or alcohol impairment
  • Driver is distracted
    • Commercial vehicle regulations ban drivers from using mobile devices while driving. Doing so is considered a serious traffic violation and could lead to a CDL suspension.
  • Speeding or driving too fast for road conditions/inclement weather
  • Unsecured loads
    • When large trucks fail to secure their loads properly, motorists are put at an extreme danger. Contents from these trucks, including hazardous materials, could spill onto the roadways, causing serious accidents.
  • Improper turning or lane changing
  • Failure to maintain vehicle

Who Should I Call If I’ve Been Involved in a Trucking Accident?

Thomas J. Henry Injury Attorneys have handled a multitude of 18-wheeler accidents over the past two decades and continue to handle many of the largest 18-wheeler accident cases throughout the United States. Whether the company is small or large, our success is not an accident; it is because we understand how trucking companies operate. We represent clients/victims all over the country.

Thomas J. Henry Injury Attorneys are available to respond to trucking accidents at any hour, day or night. Our lawyers understand that the immediate acquisition, or acquiring, of evidence is paramount to understanding how the accident occurred. Remember, your choice does matter. Contact our offices – we are available 24/7, nights and weekends.

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