Drivers are faced with many obligations both on the road and off the road. There are procedures to be followed in each circumstance. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations govern drivers to help ensure safety on the roads.
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Maintenance and Inspection of Vehicles
As stated above, the driver is responsible for the inspection and maintenance of their vehicles. If the driver discovers any malfunction, he is to report it immediately and have the problem corrected in a timely manner. Prior to requiring or permitting a driver to operate a vehicle, every motor carrier or its agent shall repair any defect or deficiency reported by the driver.
Each driver has the responsibility to make sure his load is safe when he begins a trip but also to inspect at least every 150 miles. This 150 mile requirement can also be beneficial in auditing a driver's log to see if it compares to what hours of service the driver actually drove. The driver must inspect the cargo and the devices securing the cargo and make any adjustments necessary.
A tired driver is not a safe driver. It is with the understanding that the individual driver cannot be trusted to use his or her own judgment to know when to quit, that both federal and state regulations impose maximum hours that can be driven between mandatory resting periods.
The first requirement is to regulate the maximum amount of hours that can be legally driven. The second requirement is that all drivers must keep a detailed log of what hours are driven. And the third requirement is to implement an auditing plan to assure that logs are kept accurately.
The drivers' log must include the following information:
- Total miles driving today
- Truck or tractor and trailer number
- Name of carrier
- Driver's signature
- 24 hour period starting time
- Main office address
- Name of co-driver, if applicable
- Total hours
- Shipping document number(s) or name of shipper and commodity
Failure to complete the record of duty activities, failure to preserve a record of such duty activities or making false reports in connection with such duty activities shall make the driver and/or carrier liable to prosecution.
It is a detailed analysis of these logs as well as an audit of these logs against other records which may be obtained by a careful and conscientious attorney, which may provide the key to establishing liability in a catastrophic wreck.
Drugs and Alcohol
The rules against the use of alcohol and other drugs while driving a semi are considerably more strict than the laws which govern driving passenger vehicles.
With respect to alcohol where the passenger vehicle is a 0.8% blood alcohol content, under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations the limit is zero and a driver cannot consume any alcohol within 4 hours of going on duty.
With respect to drugs, while most street drugs would violate general motor vehicle laws, the prohibitions against apply to any drug which can affect driving, even those under a doctor's prescription unless the doctor has advised the driver that the substance will not affect the driver's ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. As many prescription drugs contain warnings about use while driving, this requirement would shift the burden to the driver to prove that his doctor had approved such use.