Because of their size and weight, commercial trucks are capable of causing extremely serious injuries should an accident occur. As a result, the federal government has passed various laws holding semitruck drivers, as well as trucking companies, responsible when they fail to comply with applicable federal regulations. While the standards may be high, the public’s safety is important enough to warrant the heightened standards.
Federal Trucking Laws That Promote Safety
Federal law prohibits the use of alcohol and other controlled substances while driving a semi-truck. Under 49 CFR 382, employers are required to implement and follow alcohol and controlled substance testing in compliance with federal law. Semi-truck drivers are restricted from driving or performing any safety-sensitive function if their alcohol concentration is at or above .04. While this BAC is lower than many states’ DUI/DUII laws, the risks associated with impaired truck drivers warrants a more stringent guideline.
In January 2012, a federal law was amended by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to prohibit truckers from texting, dialing, or even holding a phone while operating a truck. However, drivers are allowed to use hands-free mobile devices if they require only a single touch to operate. Operators who violate this law may face over $2000 in fines and the loss of their license. According to an ABC7.com report, the legislation came as a response to a Kentucky truck accident that killed 11 people after the truck driver was using his cell phone while driving.
While trucking companies must ensure that their fleet of trucks is well maintained and their drivers are disciplined when safety violations occur, the public should also be vigilant drivers. Defensive driving techniques such as slowing down in work zones, keeping a safe following distance, and being aware of “no-zones” can help avoid trucking accidents and fatalities. It’s our collective responsibility to help keep the country’s roadways safer for all motorists, including truck drivers.