The commercial trucking industry is highly regulated at both the state and federal level. These regulations are intended to ensure that commercial vehicles safely operate on public roads and highways with other motorists and passengers.
If a truck driver or trucking company violates the trucking laws and regulations, it can create a serious hazard that may lead to a catastrophic accident.
In a Vermont truck accident case, it often proves necessary to review and understand the relevant trucking laws so that the truck driver's and trucking company's conduct can be reviewed for potential negligence or recklessness.
If you were injured in a truck accident, the legal team at Lynch Legal Services, PLLC, can help you understand how the trucking laws apply to your case. We're ready to use our knowledge, skills, and resources to uphold your right to full and fair compensation.
Contact us for a free and confidential consultation from our Williston, VT office.
In order for someone to qualify as a commercial truck or vehicle driver, they must:
- Be at least 21 years old
- Have a valid driver's license and commercial driver's license
- Pass a medical examination
- Have proficiency in English sufficient to respond to official questions
- Have training to drive a commercial truck safely
- Be able to determine whether a truck is safely loaded and know how to tie down, brace, and block cargo
- Pass Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles written knowledge and road tests
A commercial driver is required to maintain a log of duty and driving hours if the driver:
- Drives for a common carrier, contract carrier, or private carrier, operating a vehicle with a gross or combined vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more
- Transports 16 or more vehicle occupants (including the driver) for hire
- Drives in intrastate or interstate commerce
Drivers do not need to maintain logs if they work in short-haul operations (driving no farther than a 100-mile radius, returning to the reporting location within 12 hours of the start of a duty shift) or if they operate a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle that does not require a commercial driver's license.
Drivers must log both their "on-duty time," or the time that a driver begins or is ready to work lasting until the driver leaves work or is relieved from work duties, and their "driving time," or the time that the driver spends at the driving controls during operation of a commercial motor vehicle.
Truck drivers must stay within the following service limits:
- Drivers may not be on duty longer than 14 hours without first having had 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- Drivers may drive no more than 11 hours during a 14-hour duty shift.
- Drivers may not drive if more than 8 hours have passed since the end of the driver's off-duty time or the driver's last sleeper berth break of at least 30 minutes.
- Drivers may not spend more than 60 hours on duty in any seven consecutive day period, or 70 hours in any eight consecutive day period. These periods can reset if the driver has spent at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty, including two periods between the hours of 1 am and 5 am, except that the driver cannot reset if less than 168 consecutive hours have passed since the last off-duty period.
Commercial trucks must be inspected at least once in a 12-month period. Drivers are also required to inspect their vehicles by the end of each workday.
Annual inspection reports must be kept for at least one year and at least six months after the vehicle leaves the trucking company's control. The trucking company must also keep the driver's inspection reports on file for at least three months.
In Vermont, commercial trucks are limited to the following weights and sizes:
- 22,400 pounds on a single axle
- 36,000 pounds on a tandem axle
- Total gross vehicle weight of 80,000
- Maximum width of 102 inches
- Maximum height of 162 inches
- Maximum length of 75 feet on Vermont state roads; no length limitation on interstate highways
- Trailer/semi-trailer maximum length of 53 feet, while the length between the kingpin and center of the rear axle group cannot exceed 41 feet
- Double trailer/semi-trailer maximum length of 28 feet per trailer
If a commercial truck is carrying hazardous materials that require the truck to display a hazardous materials placard, then the driver operating the truck must obtain a hazardous materials endorsement on their commercial driver's license, which requires the driver to provide their fingerprints and pass a written test.
Examples of hazardous materials include:
- Flammable gas
- Non-flammable gas
- Poisonous gas
- Flammable liquids
- Flammable solids
- Infectious substances
- Spontaneously combustible materials
- Materials that are dangerous when wet
- Organic peroxide
- Poisonous materials
- Poisonous inhalation hazards
- Corrosive substances
- Radioactive substances
Trucks must always carry a placard when they are transporting any amount of poison gas, materials that are dangerous when wet, organic peroxide, poisonous inhalation hazard, radioactive materials, or certain classes of explosive materials. Placards are also required when transporting more than 1,000 pounds of materials such as flammable and non-flammable gas, flammable materials, combustible liquids, spontaneously combustible materials, flammable solids, oxidizers, poisons, corrosives, and certain other classes of explosives.
While the standard blood alcohol limit in Vermont is 0.08 percent, for a driver operating a commercial truck, this limit is cut in half to 0.04 percent. This means that consuming even one alcoholic beverage will likely push a truck driver over the legal limit.
In addition, truck drivers must also comply with other federal regulations governing alcohol, including:
- Truck drivers may not consume alcohol within four hours of the start of duty.
- Drivers may not have alcohol in their vehicle cab.
- Any truck driver who appears to have consumed alcohol within the past four hours must be placed off-duty for no less than 24 hours.
A truck driver who is convicted for a first-time DUI in Vermont, even when driving their personal vehicle, can face a suspension of their driver's license, including their commercial driver's license, for a period of up to 90 days. Subsequent DUI convictions have even longer periods of license suspension.
A truck driver who receives any conviction for DUI is required to notify their employer of their conviction. While a trucking company may place a driver with a suspended license on leave or find the driver other non-driving work, in many cases, a DUI conviction will result in the driver's termination from employment.
If you were injured in a truck accident, the experienced truck accident attorneys at Lynch Legal Services, PLLC, will leverage their detailed knowledge of federal and state trucking laws to build a solid case on your behalf for full compensation.
Don't hesitate to reach out to our legal team for help. Get your free consultation today to review your case and legal options.