What Happens When a Trucking Company Violates FMCSA Rules?

February 24, 2024 | By Francis Firm Injury Attorneys
What Happens When a Trucking Company Violates FMCSA Rules?

Texas roads are the veins of our state, thrumming with the lifeblood of commerce. But alongside the vital deliveries rumble behemoths — eighteen-wheelers that, when driven responsibly, keep the wheels of our economy turning. Unfortunately, not all trucking companies prioritize safety as they should. When greed or negligence overrides the rules, the consequences can be devastating.

That's where the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) comes in. This federal agency acts as a guardian angel for road users, setting strict regulations for trucking companies to follow. These rules cover everything from driver hours and maintenance schedules to cargo securement and drug testing. But what happens when these rules are broken, and you or a loved one gets hurt?

Dallas truck accident attorneys at The Francis Firm, we've seen firsthand the tragic toll of trucking company negligence. We believe that every Texan deserves to travel safely, and when a trucker's recklessness or a company's disregard for FMCSA rules shatters that expectation, we fight for justice.

FMCSA Rules for Truck Drivers and Trucking Companies

Before looking at what happens when a trucking company violates FMCSA rules, let’s take a closer look at some of the FMCSA rules and regulations that, when violated, can result in truck accidents.

  • Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations: Truck drivers have specific limitations on the number of hours they can drive consecutively and within a weekly timeframe. Violations include exceeding maximum driving hours, inadequate rest breaks, or not keeping accurate logbooks.
  • Drug and Alcohol Testing: FMCSA mandates that drivers undergo drug and alcohol testing. Violations can include refusing to undergo testing, testing positive for prohibited substances, or failing to complete required testing.
  • Vehicle Maintenance: Trucks must be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure they are safe for the road. Violations include inadequate vehicle inspections, failure to repair safety defects promptly, and improper cargo securement.
  • Size and Weight Limits: CMVs must adhere to size and weight limits specified by FMCSA regulations. Violations occur when trucks exceed these limits, potentially causing road damage and safety hazards.
  • Distracted Driving: Using electronic devices, texting, or other distractions while driving is prohibited. Violations can result in fines and safety risks.
  • Licensing and Qualifications: Truck drivers must possess the appropriate commercial driver's license (CDL) and meet specific qualifications. Violations include operating without a valid CDL or driving with a disqualified or suspended license.
  • Transporting Hazardous Materials: There are strict regulations regarding the transportation of hazardous materials. Violations include improper labeling, documentation, or handling of hazardous cargo.
  • Speed Limits: Trucks must adhere to posted speed limits. Speeding violations can result in fines and accidents.
  • Recordkeeping: FMCSA mandates recordkeeping for various aspects, including HOS records, maintenance records, and driver qualification files. Violations can involve falsifying records or not maintaining required documentation.
  • Insurance Requirements: Trucking companies must carry the appropriate insurance coverage. Violations can include inadequate insurance or failing to provide proof of insurance.
  • Cargo Securement: Properly securing cargo is essential to prevent accidents and road hazards. Violations involve improper loading and securing of cargo.
  • Weight Distribution: Trucks must have proper weight distribution to maintain stability on the road. Violations can result from unevenly distributed cargo or exceeding axle weight limits.
  • Medical Examinations: Truck drivers are required to undergo regular medical examinations to ensure they are physically fit to drive. Violations include not completing required exams or driving with a disqualifying medical condition.
  • Environmental Regulations: FMCSA has regulations aimed at reducing emissions from CMVs. Violations include not complying with emissions standards or idling restrictions.

Consequences of FMCSA Violations

FMCSA rules ensure trucks and truck drivers are safe on the roadways and help protect other motorists from harm. So, what happens when a trucker or trucking company violates FMCSA rules? Here's a breakdown:

Fines and Penalties

When a trucking company violates FMCSA regulations, it can face hefty fines and penalties. These fines can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of the violation. Common violations include exceeding the allowable driving hours, inadequate vehicle maintenance, and improper cargo securement.

Suspensions and Revocations

In some cases, repeated or severe violations can lead to the suspension or revocation of a trucking company's operating authority. This means they may no longer be allowed to operate commercial vehicles legally. This action is taken to protect public safety and ensure that non-compliant companies do not continue to pose a risk on the road.

Increased Insurance Costs

Trucking companies with a history of FMCSA violations may find it challenging to secure affordable insurance coverage. Insurance premiums can skyrocket, making it financially burdensome for these companies to continue operating.

Civil Litigation

When FMCSA violations result in accidents or injuries, trucking companies can be held liable in civil court. Victims of accidents involving non-compliant trucking companies may file personal injury lawsuits to seek compensation for their medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering.

Criminal Charges

In cases of extreme negligence or repeated violations that lead to severe accidents, trucking company owners or managers may face criminal charges. These charges can range from reckless endangerment to manslaughter, depending on the circumstances.

Reputation Damage

Beyond the legal consequences, FMCSA violations can seriously damage a trucking company's reputation. Customers may lose trust in a company that prioritizes profit over safety, leading to a loss of business.

What Happens When a Trucking Company Violates FMCSA Rules

When truckers and trucking companies violate FMCSA rules, there can be far-reaching repercussions.

  • Safety Compromised: FMCSA violations are often red flags for unsafe practices. Overworked drivers, poorly maintained trucks, and overloaded cargo increase the risk of accidents.
  • Accidents and Injuries: When safety takes a backseat, innocent motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians pay the price. These accidents can cause life-altering injuries, emotional trauma, and even death.
  • Accountability Triggered: The FMCSA takes violations seriously. Investigations, fines, and even operating authority suspensions can cripple negligent companies.

How Can Lawyers Find Out If Truck Drivers or Trucking Companies Violated FMCSA Rules?

Lawyers find out if truck drivers or trucking companies have violated FMCSA rules through a combination of investigative methods and legal processes. Here's how they typically go about it:

  • Requesting Documents: Attorneys may request various documents from the trucking company and other relevant parties. These documents can include the driver's logbooks, vehicle maintenance records, inspection reports, and records of drug and alcohol testing. These documents can reveal violations of FMCSA rules related to hours of service, vehicle maintenance, and drug and alcohol testing.
  • Reviewing Police Reports: Attorneys review the police reports and accident reports generated at the scene of the truck accident. These reports often contain valuable information about the accident, the actions of the truck driver, and any potential violations observed by law enforcement officers.
  • Interviewing Witnesses: Attorneys may interview witnesses who were present at the scene of the accident or who have relevant information about the trucking company's practices. Witnesses can provide insights into the actions of the truck driver and any violations they observe.
  • Examining Electronic Data: Many commercial trucks are equipped with electronic logging devices (ELDs) and other electronic systems that record data about the vehicle's operation. Attorneys may obtain and analyze this electronic data to determine if the driver exceeded hours of service limits or engaged in other rule violations.
  • Consulting Experts: Attorneys may consult with experts, such as accident reconstruction specialists and compliance experts, who can analyze the evidence and provide opinions on whether FMCSA rules were violated.
  • Subpoenaing Records: In some cases, attorneys may use legal tools like subpoenas to compel the production of records from the trucking company or other parties involved. This can include obtaining records related to driver qualification files, training records, and safety audits.
  • Reviewing Company Policies: Attorneys may review the trucking company's policies and procedures to determine if they comply with FMCSA regulations. Violations can sometimes be traced back to systemic issues within the company.
  • Examining Driver Qualifications: Attorneys assess whether the truck driver met the FMCSA's requirements for licensing, medical qualifications, and training. Violations in these areas can lead to liability for the trucking company.
  • Analyzing Accident Reconstruction: In cases where accidents resulted from factors like speeding or improper cargo securement, attorneys may work with accident reconstruction experts to demonstrate how FMCSA violations contributed to the accident.
  • Checking for Prior Violations: Attorneys may investigate whether the trucking company has a history of FMCSA violations or safety-related incidents, which can be used to establish a pattern of negligence.

Once attorneys have gathered evidence of FMCSA rule violations, they can use this information to build a strong case on behalf of the injured party in a truck accident claim. It's important to note that attorneys with experience in truck accident cases are well-versed in identifying and proving FMCSA violations, as these violations can be critical in establishing liability and pursuing compensation for the victim.

If you've been involved in an accident caused by a trucking company's violation of FMCSA rules, it's essential to know your rights. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses.

The experienced team of truck accident lawyers at Francis Firm will carefully investigate your case, gathering evidence of the FMCSA violation and how it contributed to your accident. We'll work tirelessly to secure the compensation you deserve for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other damages you've incurred.

Contact the personal injury lawyers in Dallas at The Francis Firm today for your free consultation. We'll help you get back on the road to recovery, one mile at a time.