Truck Accident Frequently Asked Questions

Q What is a large truck? 

A By federal law, a large truck is defined as a truck with a gross weight of more than 10,000 pounds. This includes the tractor portion of the rig and the trailer that the tractor pulls behind it.

Q Are trucking companies regulated by the Federal Government? 

A Yes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration establishes rules and regulations which govern commercial motor vehicles and the companies who operate these vehicles. Their stated purpose is to attempt to make the interstate highways safer. 

Q Does Federal law limit the hours that a trucker can operate his truck? 

A Yes. Since 1939, Federal law has placed restrictions on the “hours of service” that a trucker may operate his truck. Recent changes have been made to these rules for the first time in over 60 years. These rules are designed to promote safety by helping to ensure that truck drivers are getting the needed rest to operate their big rigs safely. 

Q How are the hours that a truck driver operates monitored? 

A By law, each truck driver is required to keep a log book which keeps track of the miles traveled, the hours of service, the hours of on-duty non driving time, the hours in the sleeper berth and the hours of off duty time. Regular traffic inspections and inspection at weigh stations are designed to police and check for driver compliance with the hours of service regulations. 

Q Do trucking companies use devices on their vehicles to limit the speed of their drivers? 

A Yes. Some trucking companies install devices known as “governors” that prohibit the truck from traveling at a speed above a certain set limit. Thus, drivers for these companies cannot exceed the maximum speed limits on interstates. Not all companies install these devices however. Many know that their drivers will be placed in situations where speeding is necessary to meet a deadline. 

Q Are truckers allowed to use radar detectors? 

A No. Effective in 1994, the Federal Highway Administration banned the use of radar detectors in commercial vehicles involved in interstate commerce. The only use for radar detectors was to evade speed limit enforcement. 

Q Are truckers required to stop at weigh stations on the interstate? 

A Absolutely yes unless the weigh station is closed or if the truck driver is directed to bypass the station by an official. Some modern weigh stations allow drivers to be weighed while rolling through devices installed under the interstate. Those drivers pay a subscription to a service that installs a transmitter onto the vehicle so that it can be identified by the weigh station authorities. Weighing is an essential part of enforcing the weight restrictions imposed on trucks operating in interstate commerce. 

Q Are truck braking systems the same as automobile systems? 

A No. Generally, auto brakes are operated through hydraulics. Most truck braking systems operated through the use of pressurized air. Because of the delays in getting the air through long hoses to the brake system shoes, trucks take much longer to stop than regular vehicles. 

Q Are trucks required to have anti-lock brakes? 

A As of March 1997, newly manufactured trucks are required to have anti-lock brakes. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issued a rule in 1995 requiring this change. New trailers, single unit trucks and buses had to have anti-lock brakes by March 1998. All new trucks in Europe are required to have anti-lock brakes. 

Q What is truck under ride crashes? 

A Truck under ride crashes occurs when a vehicle runs under a truck, usually from behind. These crashes frequently result in a fatality. In January 1998, a new rule required a rear impact guard to be installed on new trailers

Q Are tractor trailers involved in a large number of crashes? 

A Yes. Tractor trailers are involved in more fatal crashes than passenger vehicles. However, tractor trailers have a lower non fatal crash rate than passenger vehicles. Research suggests that the size and speed of the large trucks is a key factor leading to an increased rate of fatality per accident. 

Q Are truckers required to pass a skills driving test to get a license? 

A Yes. Since 1992, commercial truck drivers have been required to obtain a commercial driver’s license, (CDL). This license requires that drivers pass a driving skills test to drive a commercial vehicle. If the driver violates any driving laws or gets into an accident during the test, he automatically fails the test. 

Q Are multi trailer trucks more dangerous than single trailer trucks? 

A Yes. Multi trailer trucks inherently have more handling problems than single trailer trucks. The additional connection points cause greater instability which can lead to jackknifing, trailer swing, etc. These vehicles are two to three times more likely to be in crashes, especially in conditions where ice and snow are present. 

Q Is driver fatigue a major factor in most truck accidents? 

A Yes. The rate of truck crashes goes up substantially as driver fatigue increases. Research shows that the hours between midnight and six a.m. is the highest period of driver fatigue. This is why the hours of service limitations were originally put into force. Drivers who violate the hours of service limitations are 77% more likely to report falling asleep behind the wheel of a large truck. 

Q Are trucks required by Federal law to carry insurance? 

A Yes. Federal law requires commercial vehicles traveling in interstate commerce to carry $750,000 of insurance for bodily injury and property damage. Most State laws also impose minimum insurance requirements on trucks not covered under Federal law.

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