Andrew Chasan, a well-known Boise, Idaho personal injury lawyer, is the current chairman of the Interstate Trucking Litigation Section of the American Association for Justice. Andy recently published a checklist of key statutory requirements that attorneys can use in analyzing a trucking accident case. Here is an abbreviated version of Andy's excellent checklist:
NEGLIGENT OPERATION The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) rules for operating a truck under the following circumstances:
* When the driver is fatigued or ill. 49 CFR 392.3.
* When the driver is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. 49 CFR 392.4 and 392.5.
* During use and equipment inspection. 49 CFR 392.7.
* During the loading of trailers. 49 CFR 392.9.
* During conditions deemed hazardous ("extreme caution" requirement) 49 CFR 392.14.
* Methods of securing loads properly. 49CFR 392.9, 393.100-.136.
The CFR requires:
* Well-maintained, clean and unobstructed lights, lamps and reflectors in specific places. 49 CFR 392.33, 393.11, .17-.26
* Installation and proper calibration of specified brake systems. 49 CFR 393.40.
* Minimum standards of brake performance. 49 CFR 393.52.
* Specific equipment inspection. 49 CFR 392.7, .8.
NEGLIGENT HIRING & RETENTION A truck driver may not be hired, nor may he operate a tractor trailer, unless certain criteria are met.
* All generated or collected records about the driver must be maintained at the trucking company's principal place of business for as long as the driver is employed, plus three years after the truck driver no longer is employed. Records regarding the investigation into the safety performance history of the truck driver are part of what is required to be maintained. 49 CFR 391.51, .53.
* A road test must be passed by the truck driver. 49 CFR 391.31, .35.
* The driver's driving record must be checked for the past three (3) years in every state in which the driver has held a license. 49 CFR 391.23(a)(1). (In South Carolina, the fee and procedure for obtaining a 10-year record is exactly the same for obtaining a 3-year record. A responsible South Carolina trucking company, concerned about safety would go ahead and request the 10-year record - MJ).
* Prior employers before the past three years must be contacted, and the trucking company must ask about the truck driver's employment status and quality of work. Written notes must be retained regarding each contact. 49 CFR 391.23(d).
* Every 12 months, there must be a personal review with each truck driver about all driving violations in the preceding year. 49 CFR 391.25.
* A driver must be physically able and qualified to drive. 49 CFR 391.41.
* A driver must receive a certificate of medical examination. 49 CFR 391.43.
* Drug testing must take place pre-employment, post-accident, and randomly. 49 CFR 382.301, .303, .305.
* There are strict limits on the number of hours a trucker may drive or stay on duty. 49 CFR 395.3, .5.
* Truck drivers must maintain accurate and up-to-date logs of their time on duty and on the road. 49 CFR 395.8.
* Truckers generally may not drive after the end of the 14th hour, after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Truckers may not drive at all once a driver has been on duty 70 hours in any 8 consecutive days. 49 CFR 395.3.
* The driver must file the logs with the trucking company. 49 CFR 395.8(i).
DRIVER FATIGUE In addition to the hours on-duty and hours on-the-road restrictions:
* Truck drivers may not drive while the driver's ability to drive is so impaired (or so likely to be impaired) through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, that it is unsafe for him to drive. 49 CFR 392.3.
* Drivers' logs must be kept for at least 6 months. 49 CFR 395.8(k). (Trip receipts, bills of lading, dispatch and delivery orders, fuel, food and toll receipts may independently verify the truthfulness of the logs).
* On-board recorders may be used in lieu of (or in addition to) the driver's record of duty status. 49 CFR 395.15. GPS systems used to track location and cargo may also assist in independent verification, but these records are often deleted by the GPS company within one or two weeks.
* Trucking companies must require all its truck drivers to comply with all the safety regulation requirements. 49 CFR 390.11. Most responsible trucking companies will audit its drivers' logs periodically. A trucking company which fails to discover fraudulent logs - thereby failing to prevent violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations - can result in the imposition of punitive damages, if injuries result.
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