Trucking Rules and Regulations in Colorado
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules over the trucking industry in the United States. As part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, they oversee regulations for commercial drivers, companies, and vehicles. The idea behind these regulations? To prevent avoidable accidents on the road. A commercial motor vehicle (CMV) that weighs 10,001 pounds is just the tip of the iceberg: heavy-duty Class 8 tractor-trailers can weight up to 80,000 pounds - twenty times the weight of an average sedan.
Here in Colorado, the state is responsible for issuing commercial driver’s licenses and endorsements based on federal standards. In addition, it allows “grandfathered” semi-trailers up to 57’4” in length to operate lawfully in Colorado. (The DOT sets a hard limit for all states at 65” long.)
We hope this page from Peters & Nolan, LLC, helps clarify some trucking requirements. If you were injured in a collision with a semi-truck on the Western Slope, don’t hesitate to call (970) 243-4357 to speak to a Grand Junction truck accident attorney. Trucking companies are notorious for bending the rules and trying to get away with it by intimidating victims. Don’t let them do that to you. Call us.
First, let’s talk “Gross Vehicle Weight Rating” or GVWR. There are eight categories of truck, based on the maximum amount of weight a truck is certified to carry while driving, including the weight of the truck itself. Both the DOT and the manufacturer determine this rating.
- Class 1: 6,000 pounds or less
- Class 2: 6,001-10,000 pounds
- Class 3: 10,001-26,000 pounds
- Class 4: 14,001-16,000 pounds
- Class 5: 16,001-19,500 pounds
- Class 6: 19,501-26,000 pounds
- Class 7: 26,001-33,000 pounds
- Class 8: 33,001-80,000 pounds
A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is only required to operate vehicles in Class 7 and 8. Because trucks smaller than this don’t have air brakes, they aren’t generally considered “commercial trucks,” even though box trucks and delivery vans are still used for business-related shipping. Whether you or a loved one was injured by an Amazon delivery driver or a tanker truck, it’s time to call a lawyer.
From the FMCSA website itself, here are the Hours of Service rules for CDL holders:
- 11-hour driving limit: May drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- 14-hour on-duty limit: May not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
- 8-hour rest break provision: May drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes.
- 60/70-hour limit: May not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
- Sleeper berth provision: Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.
Trucking companies, as employers, are responsible for enforcing these rules. Violations are punishable by citations, and the trucking company can also be held responsible in a civil lawsuit. Sometimes, juries will award punitive damages in these cases to punish egregious misbehavior by trucking companies.
As of 2017, large commercial trucks are required to be outfitted with electronic logging devices (ELDs) to track hours of service. This “black box data” is a gold mine of information, telling the company about the truck’s speed, acceleration, braking, and more. Of course, trucking companies are quick to hide this information, and rarely give it up without a legal fight.
In addition, trucking employers are required to conduct drug and alcohol testing on their employee-drivers regularly, and do background checks for traffic violations before even hiring their drivers. When they fail to do so, they can be held liable for a resultant crash.
Here are some potential violations of federal law that can lead to traumatic crashes:
- Overloading the truck beyond its GWVR
- Not securing the cargo correctly; i.e., with tie-downs and even distribution
- Not taking mandatory rest breaks, falling asleep at the wheel
- Using faulty parts, such as a weak trailer hitch, which leads to a runaway trailer
- Speeding, especially on one of Colorado’s mountain roads
Depending on who participated, different people may be liable. For example, an independent contractor-trucker would be liable if he failed to secure his own load before hitting the road, or not checking it at the required mileage, to make sure everything was in place and hadn’t shifted. A trucking company would be liable if it coerced its drivers to skip breaks and falsify their HOS logbooks in order to squeeze out more profits. A parts manufacturer would be liable if it sold a faulty part, like defective air brakes, which contributed to the crash. A maintenance company would be liable if it was contracted to fix a problem but did not, or deferred a repair in order to save money.
There are many potentially liable parties, and getting to the bottom of an 18-wheeler crash isn’t easy. But with our decades of experience, it can be done, and done right.
Peters & Nolan, LLC, has been handling serious injury crashes for over twenty years. Please call (970) 243-4357 as soon as you can after being involved in an accident with a semi. Trucking companies and their insurers are aggressive, often arriving at the scene before the police can. They have a vested interest in protecting their $1 million liability policy, whether or not they’re utterly wrong.
Fight back with a tough, experienced legal team – we’ll go to work to get you the money you need to pay your medical bills, lost income, vehicle repairs, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and more. You pay no fee unless we recover fair compensation for you.
Peters & Nolan, LLC is your ideal source for high quality legal representation throughout the state of Colorado. Known for being personable and responsive, attorneys Andrew J. Peters and Andrew Nolan are aggressive trial lawyers with an excellent record of trying and settling cases in criminal defense, DUI/DWAI and personal injury.
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