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Safety Rules for Commercial Vehicle Operation Part 1

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Often, we are faced with having to educate people serving on a jury about the safety rules governing commercial motor vehicles. Sometimes we have to even inform judges.

Everyone who drives a car is required to know the rules of the road that apply to the safe operation of a car.

Car drivers think that they know the rules that apply to the safe operation of a semi-tractor-trailer truck. But most do not.

Even police officers think they know the rules that apply to the safe operation of trucks, and again, most of them do not.

Of course, police officers who serve as DOT compliance inspectors do know the specific rules that apply to safe truck operation. They are required to know the rules as a part of their job.

Do you know who else is required to know the rules applicable to operating trucks? Every truck driver. Every commercial motor carrier.

But the ordinary person does not know that the details of the rules known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

These regulations obviously apply to motor carriers. Who is a motor carrier? The short definition is any person who owns or leases a commercial motor vehicle.

These regulations deal with all sorts of things that do not apply to driving a car. For example,

  • – certain records about vehicle and drivers must be preserved
  • – drivers have to undergo drug and alcohol testing
  • – drivers have to have a commercial driver’s license called a CDL for short
  • – a driver’s qualification file must be maintained where all aspects of a driver’s qualification are documented
  • – drivers and motor carriers must be familiar with the mechanical parts and accessories of the vehicles they are operating
  • – there are rules for inspection, repair, and maintenance of vehicles

We will delve into just one of these categories for a moment.

Let’s focus on the category of alcohol and drugs.

In most cases, there must be a pre-hiring screening for drugs or alcohol. There is a requirement for random testing.

But here’s where it really gets interesting, post-accident, there must be a test as soon as practicable if there is a fatality. There must be a test if a citation is issued to the truck driver involved in a crash.

If these tests are not conducted and should’ve been conducted, it violates the regulations.

If a test should have been conducted in a fatality accident but wasn’t, the family of the victim may be entitled to have the court instruct the jury that they are free to presume the motor carrier driver was using alcohol or drugs which would have precluded operating the vehicle.

Our next podcast will delve into one of the other categories.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”