Being a truck driver is a very dangerous profession. Even with federal and state regulations in place that are meant to limit the number of hours that a truck driver can be on the road without rest, unfortunately, the long hours, the desire to deliver the shipment as fast as possible, and other variables mean that truck drivers are at high risk for accidents to occur.
One thing to note is that any accidents that involve truck drivers are usually commercial in nature and, as a result, differ from regular accidents in terms of laws and regulations.
So considering all of the different parties involved in the trucking industry, here’s an overview of certain aspects of the laws and regulations that one should be aware of:
Both State and Federal Laws Apply
Usually when there’s a car accident, the parties involved only have to worry about state laws. When it involves trucks, however, there are also multiple federal laws that must also be taken into account. These federal laws are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation (https://www.transportation.gov/) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/).
In addition, those involved may be subjected either to the laws in the state in which the accident occurred or in the state which issued their driver’s license.
The Issue of Vicarious Liability is Crucial
One of the main components of an accident involving a commercial truck is the issue of vicarious liability. If vicarious liability can be shown, the truck driver may not get the brunt of the blame if the accident was caused by his or her vehicle. Instead, based on the actual details of the accident, the company which owns the truck can be held to a greater degree of liability. Some instances in which this would be the case is if the company:
- Didn’t provide proper training to the truck driver;
- Engaged in improper maintenance and upkeep of the vehicle and/or equipment;
- Asked or pressured the truck driver to drive longer than legally allowed before a break.
Of course, if the truck driver was shown to be at fault through negligence or by not following proper procedures, than he or she will be held liable, rather than the company.
Employee vs. Independent Contractor
Yet another issue that must be taken into account is whether or not the truck driver is classified as an employee or as an independent contractor. If the truck driver is classified as an employee, he or she will have more protections in place and coverage through their employer. However, if the truck driver is an independent contractor, than he or she will potentially not have any coverage.
Many truck companies prefer to argue in court that the truck drivers that work for them are independent contractors. Some indications that a truck driver is an independent contractor are if he or she:
- Is responsible for the maintenance of the truck;
- Is responsible for paying taxes, rather than the employer withholding them;
- Is responsible for purchasing various equipment, accessories, and supplies;
- Is paid for each truck load/trip rather than being given a set salary..
It’s important that a truck driver understands his or her status.
No one wants to go through a vehicular accident. Knowing the laws and regulations pertaining to your own situation ahead of time will allow you to better deal with the fallout if an accident happens to take place. We at A-1 Auto Transport want everyone to drive safe!