Up-to-Date Trucking Laws and Regulations Accident Victims Need to Know

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The California Department of Transportation and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates strict regulations for trucking companies to protect the safety of all drivers, passengers, and road travelers. Failing to follow these laws can result in serious truck accidents, prompting legal action. Here is an overview of the current trucking regulations in California.


Trucking Regulations in California

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Every trucking company must follow federal regulations in addition to state regulations. These laws mandate the working hours of truck drivers, cargo weight limits, vehicle maintenance, and more.

Size and Weight Limits

There are exceptions to these limitations depending on the type of vehicle and routes. The California Vehicle Code (CVC) specifies a truck’s weight and size be limited to:

  • Height of 14 feet
  • Width of 8.5 feet
  • Single unit length of typically 40 feet
  • Combined length of typically 65 feet (tractor-trailer, semi-trailer)
  • Maximum overall weight of 80,000 pounds

Exceeding these restrictions can cause a truck to shift weight, creating an uneven distribution in weight and increasing the likelihood of a truck accident.

License Requirement for Commercial Truck Drivers

Anyone operating a commercial truck must possess a commercial driver’s license (CDL), including independent contractors. In order to obtain a CDL, drivers must also have a standard California driver’s license. 

Then, they can apply for a Commercial Learner’s Permit, which grants temporary driving privileges for 14 days. Drivers applying for a CDL will also undergo a vision test, medical exam, and written knowledge test.

The processes associated with obtaining a commercial driver’s license ensure foundational driving skills have been learned so that a truck driver will be equipped to successfully and safely operate a commercial vehicle. 

Truck Driver Logs

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces trucking companies to maintain detailed activity logs for all commercial truck drivers. 

These records are tracked through electronic logging devices (ELDs) rather than manual logs to enforce accuracy and avoid tampering. 

ELDs log every stop made, the frequency of rest breaks, and any vehicle inspections encountered during the route. 

Comprehensive record-keeping fosters regulation compliance, confirming truck drivers, as well as truck companies, are not compromising the safety of other road users. 

Vehicle Inspections by the Trucking Companies

Ensuring the safety and reliability of commercial vehicles is paramount in the trucking industry. This necessitates both pre-trip inspections conducted by drivers and schedule-based maintenance implemented by the truck companies/vehicle owners.

Truck drivers are responsible for performing thorough pre-trip inspections to identify any potential issues before their route. 

Similarly, trucking companies and truck owners are responsible for scheduling regular maintenance to address wear and tear and check that all systems are functioning optimally. 

Collaborative inspections and maintenance prioritize road safety and can prevent a motor vehicle accident from occurring.

Additionally, public health agencies, like the California Air Resources Board aim to reduce air pollution. The latest effort is the Clean Truck Check Program, enforcing the trucking industry and operators to register for operation in California and encourage rapid repair of malfunctioning emissions control systems.

Hours of Service (HOS)

Worked hours of service (HOS) regulations are strictly enforced for commercial truck drivers. These rules are specifically designed to address the unique risks associated with operating large commercial vehicles by dictating the maximum driving hours allowed and rest periods.

The intended goal is to combat driver fatigue, a major contributor to truck accidents. Fatigue can significantly impair a driver’s judgment, reaction time, and ability to control the vehicle, posing a serious threat to themselves and other road users. 

By limiting driving hours and mandating rest breaks, the regulations aim to keep drivers alert and minimize the risks associated with fatigue-induced car accidents.

DOT Requirements

Operating commercial trucks across state lines necessitates compliance with the US Department of Transportation’s (DOT) registration requirements. 

Each truck must secure a unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) as its official identifier. This VIN, vital for tracking and verification purposes, must be displayed on both sides of the vehicle for immediate visibility.


What Is Considered a Commerical Vehicle?

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As defined by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, commercial trucks may encompass any vehicle used “for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit or designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.” This includes the following:

  • Delivery trucks
  • Garbage trucks
  • Tanker trucks
  • Construction vehicles
  • Utility trucks
  • Buses


Who Enforces Regulations for the Commercial Trucking Industry?

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Multiple government agencies mandate the laws and regulations of the trucking industry. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is the lead federal agency for setting regulations.

To ensure these laws are enforced, the California Highway Patrol upholds the mandates set forth by the FMCSA.

For example, CHP strategically locates and operates the weigh stations across Los Angeles County, including Long Beach, CA.

These designated checkpoints, readily identified by road signs, require certain trucks to pull over for weight inspections. Those exceeding the established limits face significant fines and delays.


How Violating These Rules Affects Truck Accident Claims

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Recognizing the inherent risk that oversized vehicles, like 18-wheelers and tractor-trailers, pose when sharing the roadways with smaller passenger vehicles, federal and state authorities have implemented mandates on these commercial vehicles. 

Despite these legal efforts, accidents involving commercial trucks continue to plague California’s roads. In fact, the state consistently ranks among the top 10 in the nation for fatalities stemming from truck and bus crashes.

Truck drivers shoulder an immense responsibility to prioritize safety. Strict adherence to the rules, proactive maintenance of their vehicles, and avoiding distractions while driving are paramount. 

Additionally, it is the trucking industry’s responsibility to enforce these regulations and confirm that their employees are following protocol. 

The failure to adhere to the trucking regulations is a form of negligence. If a truck accident occurs, the victim of that accident is entitled to the right to file a personal injury claim and recover compensation for damages.


For Questions, Contact Our Long Beach Truck Accident Attorneys

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In the aftermath of a truck accident, navigating the complexities of a potential personal injury claim can feel overwhelming. 

If you or a loved one has been impacted by the negligence of a truck driver or trucking company, seeking immediate legal counsel is crucial. 

A seasoned Long Beach truck accident lawyer from Belmont Accident Lawyers will provide invaluable guidance and assess the accident to determine the best course of action. 

We offer a free consultation. Don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our experienced attorneys for assistance. 

Schedule a Free Consultation