A truck driver’s failure to meet his or her legal responsibilities can give rise to a claim for negligence and compensatory damages. When there is evidence these responsibilities were violated in a willful and wanton manner, a claim for punitive damages.
Operators of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) who are engaged in the furtherance of a commercial enterprise for compensation have a wide range of responsibilities, whether the driver who operates the vehicle is required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or not. The minimum responsibilities for CDL drivers are found in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). These requirements are only the minimum and should be used in conjunction with accepted industry practices and standards of care for the type of vehicle the driver intends to drive, the commodity hauled, the driver’s work environment, and the company’s procedures and policies.
Generally, truck drivers (including independent contractors) are required to have knowledge and comply with all the regulations. The driver is the captain of the ship. Motor carriers and drivers have an enormous responsibility to ensure that vehicles are in good working order and are driven by qualified drivers.
Certain Truck Driver Responsibilities
The following is a list of certain truck driver responsibilities:
- Each entry‑level driver is responsible for receiving training in driver qualification requirements, hours of service, driver wellness, and whistle‑blower protection. Drivers who employ themselves as drivers have all the responsibilities of both employers and drivers.
- Every driver must have training, information, and referral regarding alcohol misuse and controlled substances use.
- Drivers must notify their employers regarding convictions for violations, driver’s license revocation, suspension, or disqualification within the prescribed time limits.
- Drivers are responsible for providing their employers with information regarding previous employment history, previous convictions and violations of law, accident history, drug and alcohol history, and medical history.
- Drivers are responsible for determining whether cargo has been properly located, distributed, and secured in or on the commercial motor vehicle, and they must be familiar with methods and procedures for securing the cargo in or on the vehicles they drive. They are responsible for inspecting the cargoand the cargo securement devices and systems when not impractical at the beginning of the trip and at certain times during the trip.
- Drivers must know the working load limit of load securement devices and the proper number and placement of each device depending on the dimensions, weight, and specific requirements of each type of commodity. Drivers must ensure loads are secured in a manner that will prevent the load from leaking, spilling, blowing, or falling from or within the vehicle.
- All drivers are responsible for operating their CMV in accordance with the laws, ordinances, and regulations of the jurisdiction in which they are traveling.
- Drivers must cease operation of a vehicle when ill or fatigued or when their ability or alertness is so impaired or so likely to become impaired through fatigue, illness, or any other cause as to make it unsafe for them to continue to operate the CMV. However, in a case of grave emergency where ceasing operation of the vehicle would increase the hazard to occupants of the CMV or other users of the highway, drivers may continue to operate the CMV to the nearest place at which that hazard is removed.
- Drivers must not drive vehicles that are unsafe or in a condition likely to break down or cause an accident.
- A driver must not drive or be on duty while in possession of or under the influence of alcohol, controlled drugs, or other substances.
- Drivers may not speed from point to point.
- All drivers are required to obey railroad grade crossings rules and slow down and stop when required.
- Drivers must use extreme caution in adverse conditions and cease operation under certain circumstances.
- Drivers are required to use flashers and set out warning devices according to laws, regulations, accepted industry practices, and company policy.
- A driver is not permitted to transport unauthorized passengers.
- Generally, drivers are required to do pre‑trip and post‑trip inspections.
- All drivers must know and understand hours of service and logging regulations and must log all their activities accurately.
- Drivers who operate less than 100 air miles do not have to keep logs if certain conditions are met, but they must keep time records.
- Interstate drivers who drive beyond 100 air miles must keep logs.
- Drivers of intrastate motor carriers are required to keep driver logs under certain circumstances.
- Drivers may not drive when placed out of service.
- Drivers have a responsibility to know what parts and accessories are required on their CMV. They must also ensure that all parts and accessories are in good working condition for the safe operation of the vehicle, and are in compliance with laws, regulations, and industry practices. They must ensure these vehicles have been systematically inspected, maintained, and repaired.
- Drivers who transport hazardous materials that must be marked or placarded must know, among other things, where to park the vehicle, when the vehicle must be attended, what to do when fueling the truck, when to stop if there is an open fire, when to inspect tires, and what to do if a tire is flat, leaking, or improperly inflated. Drivers must use specific routes when hauling hazardous materials and know what to do and whom to call in an emergency.
Truck Drivers Must Be Held Accountable for the Damages They Cause
If retained as your lawyer, I will seek to hold truck drivers and truck companies accountable for the full measure of damages that they cause. Please call me to find out more about how we represent the victims of truck crash accidents. Because we represent clients on a contingency fee basis, there are no fees that are owed to us unless and until we recover compensation for you.