Truck drivers and trucking companies must be responsible to other motorists on the road by making reasonable efforts to prevent truck collisions. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) apply to most driver and trucking companies and establish basic safety rules designed to reduce crash risks. FMCSRs, for example, limit the hours a trucker can drive, require truck drivers to keep logs, and establish rules for trucking companies to report driver violations. These are a few of the many safety rules designed to regulate how drivers operate vehicles and how motor carriers run their business and oversee staff members.
Some drivers and trucking companies violate FMCSRs, despite the importance of these regulations for ensuring public safety. An experienced personal injury lawyer knows a violation of the rules can significantly increase the risk of a collision occurring, and can make crashes much more dangerous if they do happen.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) aims to deter rule violations by imposing penalties on drivers and on trucking companies for non-compliance. Recently, FMCSA changed the fines imposed for violations and made the penalties more stringent. Trucking Info reports the new fines went into effect on June 2, 2015. Hopefully, higher fines will mean truck drivers and trucking companies will become more likely to obey the safety requirements established by federal regulations.
Higher Fines for Violators of Safety Rules Could Help Reduce Truck Crash Rates
Fines were raised for violations not just of FMCSRs but also for violations of commercial driver's license rules and rules related to the transport of hazardous materials. The changes, in some cases, were very substantial. For example, before June 2, there was a maximum fine of $11,000 permitted by law if an egregious hours of service violation occurred (the driver drove for much too long without a break, creating a risk of a fatigued driving collision). There is now a maximum fine of $16,000 for the same violation. Before June 2, the maximum fine for most violations related to the transport of hazardous materials was $50,000 and the maximum fine is now $75,000.
With more money at stake, hopefully trucking companies and truck drivers will be more careful about obeying FMCSA rules. Fines are imposed on noncompliant drivers and noncompliant motor carriers after an FMCSA audit. When FMCSA takes action against a driver or truck company, the agency's findings and a record of the fines imposed becomes available to the public.
This public information can have serious consequences for trucking companies. Attracting qualified drivers in the future might be harder, which can make the company even less safe overall unless it makes a major change to its safety culture. The company's brand image could suffer. The information from FMCSA audits can also be utilized in cases brought against the truck driver or the trucking company. This can make it easier for victims injured by a truck accident to pursue a claim because they have the record of FMCSA rule violations to show negligence or wrongdoing.