Transportation officials know that large trucks pose some of the greatest threats on the road. For that reason, the trucking industry is regulated by strict federal and state laws. Still, far too many truck accidents are caused by violations of California trucking laws every year.
Data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found California ranks as one of the top 10 states for the highest average of fatal large truck and bus crashes in the nation. The most current statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 408 people died in California tractor-trailer collisions in a single year, up roughly nine percent from the previous year.
If you’ve suffered a major injury in a California truck accident, call the truck accident lawyers in Los Angeles at Custodio & Dubey LLP. You could be entitled to substantial compensation for your crash-related injuries and losses.
Contrary to what many people believe, truck drivers are not always the only ones to blame for an accident. Our tough attorneys will investigate your claim thoroughly so that fault is placed on every responsible party.
The path to financial relief starts with a free consultation at Custodio & Dubey LLP. Call or contact us today.
What Is Considered a Commercial Motor Vehicle in Los Angeles?
According to the California Department of Transportation, a commercial vehicle is any vehicle “used or maintained for the transportation of persons for hire, compensation, or profit” or that’s “designed, used, or maintained primarily for the transportation of property.” This definition includes things like semi-trucks and trailers, but it also includes other large vehicles, such as:
- Passenger vans
- Delivery vehicle and mail trucks
- Construction vehicles
- Utility vehicles
- Moving trucks
- Tanker trucks
- Cement trucks
- Garbage trucks
- Logging trucks
Because such a variety of vehicles qualify as commercial trucks, the types of liable parties may range from negligent truck drivers and trucking companies to government agencies and private businesses. An experienced attorney will help you identify everyone who can — and should — be held accountable for your injuries.
Truck Driver Qualifications
To legally operate a commercial motor vehicle in California, drivers must meet certain requirements. For intrastate commerce — or trips that occur only in California — drivers must be at least 18 years old. Commercial vehicle operators must be at least 21 years old for interstate trips — meaning trips between multiple states — or if they’re transporting hazardous materials.
In addition to meeting the age requirements, commercial vehicle operators must obtain their commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs). To get a CDL in California, a driver must first obtain a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) and hold it for at least 14 days.
To get a CLP, a driver must already have a standard California driver’s license. They’ll then have to complete an online application and undergo a written knowledge test, vision test, and medical exam through the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). They’ll also have to pay an application fee, have their thumbprint scanned, and have their photograph taken.
After holding their CLP for at least 14 days, a driver with a CLP can apply for a full CDL. In most cases, drivers have to take a skills test at a DMV office to obtain a CDL. There are a few exceptions. Commercial drivers with prior military training can submit a form to have the test waived, and drivers with a valid CDL from another state can surrender their prior license to obtain a California CDL. After they’ve either passed their skills test or received a waiver, drivers will be issued their full California CDL.
Truck Driver Logs
Truck drivers are required to keep logs of their activities per FMCSA rules. They must keep track of where and when they stop, how often they’re taking rest breaks, and note the results of vehicle inspections along their routes. These logs used to be handwritten, but now FMCSA requires most drivers to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) instead.
ELDs are meant to help keep truck drivers and their employers honest. Before ELDs, it was not unusual for truckers or their employers to alter handwritten logbooks to falsify evidence. Now, a driver who speeds, fails to stop for mandatory rest breaks, or engages in other dangerous behavior will leave an electronic trail. ELD data can be a vital source of evidence in a personal injury claim to demonstrate negligence.
Large commercial vehicles rely on thousands of parts to operate safely. It’s critical to catch any mechanical issues early to minimize the chance of a semi-truck accident.
Truck drivers are required by federal and California trucking laws to inspect their vehicles regularly for damaged or worn parts to avoid serious safety issues.
The California Commercial Driver Handbook says truck drivers should inspect their vehicles before, during, and after each trip. If the driver notices any issues after a trip, they should make a written report and verify that it is fixed before driving again. A copy of this report should be kept for 12 months.
In addition to examining equipment like brakes, steering systems, lights, and mirrors, drivers must also check that all cargo has been properly secured within the first 50 miles of their trip. Following that initial check, they must make additional cargo inspections every 150 miles or every three hours, whichever comes first.
Size and Weight Limits for Trucks
California’s size and weight limits for commercial vehicles vary widely, depending on whether the vehicle is a combination setup and how its axles are laid out. However, there are a few general guidelines, which state that:
- The general length limit for a single commercial vehicle is 40 feet, though articulated buses and trolley coaches can go up to 60 feet.
- A truck and trailer combination vehicle cannot have a total length greater than 65 feet, with certain exceptions.
- The gross weight limit on any one axle for a commercial vehicle is 20,000 pounds or 20,500 pounds for buses.
DOT Numbers on Trucks
Most commercial trucks, and all commercial vehicles engaging in interstate commerce, are required to register with the federal Department of Transportation (DOT) and secure an identification (ID) number. The ID number must be visible on both sides of the rig.
Hazardous Materials Regulations
To transport hazardous materials in California, commercial drivers must obtain a special endorsement for their CDL. In addition to going through additional testing for this endorsement, truckers must pass a background check conducted by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. This background check includes:
- Proof of U.S. legal residence
- Fingerprint registration
- Payment of applicable fees
DUI Laws for Truck Drivers
California has a stricter DUI standard for commercial vehicle operators than for drivers of non-commercial vehicles. While the legal limit for most drivers is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08, the legal limit is 0.04 percent for anyone driving a commercial vehicle.
CDL holders found guilty of DUI will have their license revoked, in addition to facing other civil and criminal penalties. Furthermore, CDL holders may also lose their licenses if they’re found guilty of DUI while driving a passenger vehicle.
Hours-of-Service Laws for Truck Drivers in California
Truckers in California are required to take breaks at specific intervals to make sure they’re rested enough to drive safely. These regulations are called “hours of service” rules, and there are two different sets of regulations truck drivers need to follow.
For intrastate trips, truck drivers have to follow California’s hours of service guidelines, which mandate that:
- Drivers cannot drive more than 12 hours after being off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.
- After 16 hours of work (driving or not), truckers must stop driving for at least 10 hours.
- Drivers are not eligible to drive after being on duty for 80 hours in any given 8-day consecutive period.
For interstate trips, truck drivers must follow federal FMCSA rules, which state:
- Drivers may be on duty for up to 14 consecutive hours as long as they’ve been off-duty for at least 10 consecutive hours. This 14-hour window begins as soon as the driver starts work, no matter if they’re driving or not.
- During the 14-hour work window, drivers can only be behind the wheel for up to 11 hours.
- Truckers must take a break of at least 30 minutes if it’s been 8 or more hours since their last break of similar length.
- Depending on their schedules, drivers can only work for up to 60 or 70 hours in any 7-day or 8-day workweek, respectively.
Contact a Truck Accident Attorney in California Today
There’s never an excuse for someone in the trucking industry to violate safety standards. If you’ve been hurt in a California truck accident, you need an advocate who will protect your rights and demand maximum compensation.
Talk to Custodio & Dubey LLP. Our proven truck accident lawyers have a track record of success representing injured people that spans over 40 years. We’ll push for the justice you deserve for all that you’ve suffered. Call our office or visit our contact page for a free consultation.