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Basic federal trucking regulations for hours and commerce

Federal trucking regulations are in place to make certain that a truck accident will not happen because of truck driver fatigue or pressure on the part of the truck company for a driver to work more than is deemed safe. This is important for Floridians because violators of these rules place themselves and others in danger. Large trucks are heavy and often travel at a high rate of speed making a truck accident a potentially deadly occurrence.

The main function of rules determining the limits for hours-of-service are for the safety of everyone by keeping drivers who are fatigued off the road. There are limits to the amount of time drivers are able to drive continuously as well as the times at which they can drive. Drivers who are operating a commercial vehicle are required to follow the regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

To have these rules apply, the vehicle must be a truck or tractor trailer and be involved in interstate commerce. There are weight regulations for the vehicle. If it weighs 10,001 pounds or more -- including its cargo -- it is subject to these rules. If it is 10,001 pounds based on gross combination weight rating or gross vehicle weight rating, these rules are also applicable. If hazardous materials are being transported and placards are required, the driver and company must adhere to the FMCSA rules.

Interstate commerce means that the shipper is sending the goods to a different state or country. When it leaves the original location, it becomes interstate commerce until it gets to the destination. A truck that carries this cargo will be considered to be transporting interstate commerce even if it is staying in one state. Those who only transport this type of cargo occasionally will not have to follow the FMCSA rules 100 percent of the time -- the rules only apply when transporting interstate commerce. The hours-of-service requirements must be followed.

For intrastate commerce, the goods stay in one state. The regulations do not apply to a driver under this category. Many states will have their own sets of rules that are similar to the federal rules and these must be known before operating the truck. Since violations of these and other rules can be so dangerous, those involved in a truck accident need to be aware of them. Speaking to a legal professional experienced in pursuing claims related to a trucking accident is the priority.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, "Interstate Truck Driver's Guide to Hours of Service, pages 1-2," accessed on Nov. 3, 2015

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