The availability of countless modern conveniences in our everyday lives is due directly to eighteen-wheeler trucks and the businesses that utilize them to get their products into our hands. Almost everything that we have access to is because of these modern marvels! From groceries to furniture, office supplies to gasoline, big rigs offer us a lot of conveniences in Louisiana. This doesn’t make them any less intimidating to share the road with, however.
Drivers of these giants are instructed from the onset of their initial training that they must follow a long and very comprehensive set of federally-mandated guidelines created just for their industry. This was created by the government for the explicit reason of preventing complete tragedy from occurring on the road. It only takes common sense to understand that what may be a scatterbrained moment for a regular motorist could result in horrific death for the victim of a careless truck driver. When we drive, we know instinctively that we are at the mercy of these enormous vehicles, which is exactly why the federal government put this set of guidelines in place.
Here are just a few of the federal mandates created for truck drivers, and why they must follow them in order to ensure safety on the road.
The Rule: Truck Drivers must undergo regular, routine inspections of their vehicle and have appropriate documentation as to those inspections and subsequent repairs, showing that their truck is fit to be driven on the road.
§ 396.3(a) states:
· “Every motor carrier shall systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained, all motor vehicles subject to its control.
· Parts and accessories must be in safe and proper condition at all times.
· Pushout windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights must be inspected at least every 90 days.”
Drivers not only have to submit to these inspections before they get on the road, they also need to perform daily written post-trip reports as well. Additionally, drivers must submit to a more involved, annual inspection on their vehicles.
The Reason: When your tire is a little low on your sedan, you might think it’s no big deal. You might even try to drive it around town a little before fixing it. A similar issue in a truck, if ignored, could result in absolute chaos and tragedy. For example, if a wheel on an eighteen-wheeler is not installed properly, that truck could end up sweeping itself across a highway, mowing down everything in its path. It’s beyond important for the safety of all motorists that every detail of a big rig is thoroughly checked out before it hits the road; not before it’s too late.
The Rule: Truck drivers are simply prohibited from being on the road for too long a stretch at a time. While drivers may be tempted to drive longer on the road than they should to make more deliveries, federal law will not allow it. These rules for trucks carrying passengers differs a bit from the trucks carrying goods. Property-carrying trucks are allowed to drive for a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. If a driver takes breaks, they are not allowed to drive longer than 14 hours before they receive 10 off-duty hours. Break times do not extend this time limit.
A third regulation exists to ensure that truck drivers don’t push themselves past the point of alertness:
“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. “ In essence, all of these rules mean this: a truck driver is strictly disallowed by the federal government for working too many hours or days in a row.
The Reason: Ever had to pull to the side of the road due to complete exhaustion? If so, then you understand this rule. Federal lawmakers know that on-the-road sleeplessness puts any motorist in extreme danger. Of course, the dangers of a sleepy driver are exponentially compounded by the sheer size of a big rig. Drivers who drive for too long without resting are taking the lives of those they are sharing the road with in their hands. As such, this federal rule is in place to keep truck drivers alert and well-slept, so as to avoid horrible accidents with innocent victims.
The Rule: Commercial Truck Drivers must have considerable insurance coverage on their vehicles. Minimum coverage for commercial trucks begins at $750,000 and may soar as high is $5 million, depending on the weight and type of the cargo that the truck is carrying.
The Reason: Federal guidelines on truck drivers’ insurance coverage is strict for a reason; truck driving is a high-risk industry. Trucks are immense in comparison to the other vehicles on the road, and as such the smallest misstep can cause great harm. High insurance coverage is a public safety measure, so that if individuals are harmed, they may have some semblance of legal recourse.
Sharing the road with an eighteen wheeler is a risky move, but it’s necessary to get around in Louisiana. If you know of an accident that has occurred with a big rig that has resulted in harm to another, the possibility exists that it was due to the negligence of the driver. There are numerous federal safety guidelines – most of which are not listed here – that may have been violated and therefore resulted in the injury. Contact an experienced Louisiana attorney as soon as possible if you believe that this is so.