The February 2013 issue of the American Association of Justice’s magazine Trial features an article written by none other than Joe Fried of the Truck Accident Attorneys. If you guessed the article was about trucking law, you’re right – but it isn’t about tractor-trailers or 18-wheelers.
That’s because an ordinary pick-up truck can be subject to the same regulations as an 18-wheeler under certain circumstances, as the article explains. If an attorney handling a trucking accident case knows these regulatory ins-and-outs, it may be possible to build a stronger case for the client.
How the Regulations Are Applied
You probably know the biggest difference between a tractor-trailer and a pick-up truck – one requires a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate, while the other does not. But if a pick-up truck is pulling a trailer or other added weight and exceeds 10,001 pounds in total, it becomes a commercial vehicle in the eyes of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). That means a new set of regulations applies.
A large pick-up truck can weigh as much as 8,000 pounds alone. When you add a trailer for landscaping, construction, plumbing or other tools, the total weight is likely to exceed that threshold.
The following regulations apply to any truck or truck/trailer combination that weighs more than 10,001 pounds, even if the driver does not need or possess a CDL:
1. All drivers must be “qualified” before they can drive the truck. They must be:
- 21 or older
- fluent in English
- physically and mentally fit
- competent at driving the truck
They must pass a background check and be periodically “re-qualified.” Employers are required to keep a file on each driver.
2. Time records must be kept. Most non-CDL drivers are classified as “short-haul drivers” if they stay within a 150-mile radius of their job and return each day. This means they do not need to keep full time logs. The employer must still track total work time, however, and keep these records for 6 months. (CDL drivers, on the other hand, need to keep a log accounting for all their time on the job, even when sleeping.)
In the Trial article, Joe Fried notes that some drivers may moonlight in another driving gig. Hours of service regulations apply to all work combined.
3. Safe driving is still required. Employers are required to train drivers about driving cautiously.
These are regulations that are more stringent for CDL-holding drivers:
- CDL drivers are required to provide 10 years of employment history instead of 3 years for non-CDL drivers.
- Drug and alcohol testing policies do not apply to non-CDL drivers.
Keep in mind, however, that many companies hold their drivers to the same standards of behavior and professionalism whether they have a CDL or not. Not having or needing a CDL isn’t a pass to get away with negligence or dangerous driving.
Joe Fried’s Tips
In the Trial article, Joe offers tips to attorneys handling accident cases involving pick-up trucks that fall under these federal regulations due to their weight. Here’s a quick summary of his advice:
- First and foremost, know the full weight of the vehicle you’re dealing with. This can mean the weight of a pick-up truck plus the weight of a trailer. You need to know what category it is in to build your case.
- Get information on the carrier by using the vehicle’s Department of Transportation number. Submit requests under the Freedom of Information Act to the FMCSA if necessary.
- Get detailed files on the driver from the company, and take note of what is missing. Incomplete documentation can help prove a case of negligent hiring or inadequate training.
- Study the CDL manual.
Know the Case
Knowledge of these regulations and when they apply is pivotal to putting on a good case. Trucking law is complicated, and it’s a different realm than car crashes. As Joe Fried wrote in Trial:
“These cases should be handled as trucking crash cases instead of car crash cases. Doing so will provide tremendous case development opportunities and maximize recoveries and results for clients.”
The Truck Accident Attorneys at Atlanta-based Fried Goldberg LLC have built their careers on handling trucking cases, and they make up about 95% of our caseload. Joe Fried is a former police officer, and he harnesses those investigative skills to do the best for his clients as their attorney. Contact Joe and the other Truck Accident Attorneys if you’ve been injured in a crash involving a commercial truck.