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What Rules Do Truck Drivers Have to Follow?

Sharing the roadway with commercial trucks is an important part of making sure our economy and supply chains function as they should, but at the same time, these massive vehicles can create risks. 

The commercial trucking industry is highly regulated to lower the risk of accidents. If you’re in an accident with a semi-truck or a similarly large vehicle, it tends to lead to permanent impairment and life-threatening injuries. 

For example, injuries in trucking accidents can include severe burns, traumatic brain injuries, paralysis, and spinal cord injuries. There’s also a much higher risk of an accident being fatal when a large truck is involved. 

If you’re part of an accident with a commercial truck, damages you might be able to recover include your mental, physical and emotional damages. Damages can include financial losses as well, including medical bills and lost wages. If someone dies in an accident with a commercial truck, their family might be able to seek damages for wrongful death. With these things in mind, the following are some of the many rules and regulations that apply to the trucking industry designed to lower the risks to the drivers themselves and other people on the roads.

Who Monitors Trucking Regulations?

There are two organizations that monitor trucking rules and regulations. The first is national, and the second is state-level. The national organization responsible for establishing and enforcing trucking regulations is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration or FMCSA. It’s part of the Department of Transportation. 

At the state level, organizations like the State Department of Transportation might be responsible for overseeing these regulations. 

Also relevant in trucking rules are the Department of Transportation itself and the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). 

FMCSA laws are for Commercial Motor Vehicles or CMVs. A CMB is a vehicle with a weight of at least 10,001 pounds.

Hours of Service

The FMCSA has regulations regarding the hours of service that a truck driver can complete, and they can vary depending on whether the driver is carrying property or passengers. 

If a commercial driver is carrying property, they can drive up to 11 hours after having ten consecutive off-duty hours. After a ten-hour break, they can drive up to 14 hours consecutively, but they have to take at least a 30-minute break between each of the eight-hour drives. 

A driver can drive for up to 60 hours over a seven-day period or 70 hours over eight days.


All truck drivers are required legally to report inspections on the vehicles they are driving at the end of their workday. Every report completed by a driver has to detail the dangers of operating the truck again. These dangers can include defects or broken parts. 

If there was a defective part not appropriately reported and there’s an accident that occurs as a result, the affected driver could receive compensation. 

Drug Testing

The FMCSA has requirements for both drug and alcohol testing that are listed under Department of Transportation regulations. If these rules aren’t followed, then the trucking company could face civil liabilities. 

Drug and alcohol tests are usually administered as part of pre-employment. They’re also done randomly and following an accident. 

The substances that a commercial truck driver may be tested for, along with alcohol, include methamphetamines and amphetamines, cocaine, opiates, marijuana, and phencyclidine.


The FMCSA requires truck drivers to keep logbooks. These logbooks must include dates of duty and changes in a duty status. They must include the total miles driven every day, vehicle license and registration information, and locations of changes in a duty status. 

Other things the logbooks have to include are the name of the carrier, owner, or operator, the starting time for a 24-hour period, co-driver information, total hours worked off-duty hours, and shipper and shipment information. 

Logs have to be updated regularly throughout each workday, and drivers have to make and keep log copies. The logs have to be in an easily accessible location so they can be inspected.

Sometimes, if there’s an accident, a driver might falsify their logs to make it appear they were compliant with regulations. If this happens, an attorney for the other driver involved might get access to other supporting documents. Attorneys can go over logs and spot red flags in them.

New Regulations

There are always changes and updates to trucking regulations, and there are some updates on the horizon. 

For example, something that was originally set to become effective in 2020 is now going to take effect this year. Anyone applying for a Class A or B driver’s license has to complete a total of 31 topics and 19 skills as part of a training program now. 

Drivers and carriers have to be constantly mindful of changes in regulations.

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