Commercial Trucking Laws in KentuckyCommercial trucks make our modern economy possible.
We wouldn’t have the homes or consumer goods we have or the ready availability of the food we eat without commercial trucks. With the good these trucks and their drivers provide us, we also get the downside of the threat of an accident. These vehicles can weigh 80,000 pounds and, if not driven, designed or maintained properly, they can become giant, diesel-powered battering rams. Victims of accidents involving commercial trucks often suffer catastrophic or fatal injuries.
There are state and federal laws, rules and regulations that cover commercial vehicles and their drivers.
They address a number of areas, including safety provisions for both the vehicle and the driver. Interstate use of commercial vehicles is regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In Kentucky, the State Police Division of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement is the agency that enforces applicable state and federal law.
Under federal law, a truck driver must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to drive a commercial vehicle over a certain weight. There are many legal requirements for drivers and their trucks. These rules were adopted with the goal of making the drivers and the trucks safer for the general public.
- CDL holders have higher standards when it comes to impaired driving. Drunk or drugged truck drivers threaten public safety and can be a serious liability to employers. While a non-commercial driver would be considered legally intoxicated and could be charged with driving under the influence if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08% or more, for a CDL holder the allowable BAC drops to 0.04%. A commercial driver could be forced off the road for 24 hours for any detectable amount of alcohol or controlled substance in his or her system. CDL drivers are subject to numerous drug tests, including pre-employment, post-accident, random, reasonable suspicion and return-to-duty testing.
- Hours-of-service requirements require that drivers get enough rest and sleep to reduce the risk of fatigue, which can lead to accidents. The maximum average work week is 70 hours. Drivers must take at least a thirty-minute break for every eight consecutive hours on duty. Once the weekly limit is reached, a week can start again with 34 consecutive hours off duty. Daily driving must be limited to 11 consecutive hours with the total work day 14 consecutive hours.
- All CDL drivers must keep a record of duty in their own handwriting, stating what they did and their duty status within each 24-hour period. This helps confirm the driver is complying with applicable laws and rules.
- Prior to each trip, drivers should review truck inspection reports, make sure that any necessary repairs are completed and check the overall condition of the truck’s parts and systems for any damage. A poorly or improperly maintained vehicle is a danger to the driver and all others on the road.
- There are weight limits on components of a big rig and its load. The gross weight of a tractor-trailer combination cannot exceed 80,000 pounds unless an exception has been allowed by permit. If the trailer is overloaded, it will take longer for the truck to stop. If not properly loaded, the truck might tip over in a turn or cargo might fall off the trailer, creating a hazard for other drivers.
If a commercial truck is involved in an accident and some party involved with the truck (driver, truck owner, shipper, maintenance company or truck manufacturer) negligently took some action or failed to take some action, one or several of them could face legal liability, depending on the circumstances.
Given all the complexities and the parties involved, a thorough and professional investigation into the accident and what caused it is critical to any lawsuit. This investigation should identify the cause and any contributing factors. If there is evidence of negligence or a party broke a law, there may be a basis for a lawsuit.
If the truck driver is the cause of the accident, he or she could be a defendant in a lawsuit.
The driver’s employer can also be held liable if the driver’s actions were done while he or she was on duty and the actions were within the scope of his or her employment. If a party broke the law (e.g., the driver was using illegal drugs or the truck was overloaded) and that violation is related to the accident, that can be the basis for a negligence claim.
If you have been injured or your loved one was killed in an accident involving a commercial vehicle, you should retain an attorney to help you immediately! Given the complexities of the law, the need for an expert to investigate the crash, the fact there could be several defendants and several insurance companies involved, and the possible loss of critical data and evidence, this is not something you want to handle on your own or wait to do. Contact our office so we can talk about the accident, how it was caused, applicable laws and how to best protect your rights and interests.