Injury Law Blog

What Are the Rules and Regulations for Truckers in California?

Truck drivers have unique duties of care compared to typical vehicle drivers. They hold commercial driver’s licenses and must comply with the related regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) strives to make the commercial trucking industry safer in the United States. It imposes federal laws all trucking companies and their employees must obey. Violating any trucking rules, regulations or laws in California could cause serious accidents.

Hours of Service Restrictions

To reduce the rate of drowsy and fatigued truck drivers, the FMCSA imposes hours of service regulations limiting how long a person can drive without taking breaks. The number of hours a trucker can drive per shift will depend on his or her schedule and whether the truck is carrying property or passengers.

  • Property-carrying drivers have an 11-hour driving maximum after 10 consecutive hours off the clock. Passenger-carrying drivers have a 10-hour maximum after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
  • Property-carrying drivers cannot drive for longer than 14 consecutive hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. Passenger-carrying drivers have a 15-hour limit after 8 hours off-duty. Off-duty time does not extend into the 14- or 15-hour periods.
  • Neither type of driver may operate a truck for more than 60 hours over seven consecutive days or 70 hours over 8 consecutive days.

The FMCSA also imposes sleeper berth provisions that require commercial truck drivers to take certain breaks in their sleeper berths after so many hours driven. If a truck driver ignores the hours of service restrictions, it could lead to driver fatigue and related accidents. If a truck company encourages its drivers to break the rules by offering incentives such as bonuses for faster delivery times, the company could be liable.

New Unpaid Rest Break Law in California

In California, a recently passed law by the FMCSA took away truck drivers’ paid rest breaks. Under the new law, truck companies in California no longer have to offer paid rest breaks to drivers. This does not, however, mean truck drivers can opt to skip the break. By law, all truck drivers in California must rest for at least 10 minutes after every 4 hours and take one 30-minute meal break after every 5 hours.

Many organizations in the industry have expressed concerns about the new law interfering with the safety of the trucking industry. Taking away paid rest breaks could lead to increased truck driver fatigue, worry over paychecks and a higher risk of related motor vehicle accidents. The change could result in a greater number of trucking accidents in California’s future. If you or a loved one was a victim in a truck accident due to another’s negligence, contact us. Our Sacramento truck accident attorneys can help you explore your legal options during a free consultation.

Truck Company Liability for Injuries and Insurance Coverage

Many truck companies used to avoid legal responsibility for the actions of their drivers by classifying them as independent contractors instead of employees. Today, most truck drivers still work as independent contractors – but trucking companies can no longer escape liability. Federal laws hold trucking companies vicariously liable for all accidents involving their trucks and/or drivers, regardless of employment status, as long as the driver was performing job-related duties at the time of the collision.

A truck company could also be liable for accidents it contributed to directly, such as a lost cargo load due to lack of proper securement. The trucking company’s negligence, wrongful acts or carelessness could lead to company liability for collisions. Two of the most common examples of company negligence are lack of truck maintenance and inadequate driver training.

If a trucking company is accountable for a motor vehicle accident, it will absorb financial responsibility. By law, all truck companies must carry at least the minimum required amounts of liability insurance. This insurance could pay for victims’ medical bills, property repairs and other damages after an at-fault trucking accident. In addition, individual commercial truck drivers must purchase at least the minimum insurance coverage for the state of California. Insurance plans will pay for settlements or judgment awards.