What Happens When a Trucking Company Violates FMCSA Rules?

What Happens When a Trucking Company Violates FMCSA Rules?

When a trucking company violates Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules, they put their drivers and others at extreme risk of injury and death. When violations of FMCSA rules result in an accident, the negligent trucking company may face financial liability for accident victims’ damages.

Trucking companies know FMCSA rules and the importance of following those rules. Breaking those rules, therefore, is an egregious error in judgment that may prove costly for trucking companies and accident victims.

When a Trucking Company Violates FMCSA Rules Guide

FMCSA Rules That Trucking Companies Must Follow

FMCSA holds trucking companies and their employees to high standards for good reason. By establishing detailed rules for virtually every aspect of the trucking industry, FMCSA leaves little room for interpretation and sets clear expectations for trucking companies.

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Among other topics, FMCSA guidelines cover:

Maximum Truck Weight Limits

What Happens When a Trucking Company Violates FMCSA Rules?

Under regulations by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), large trucks cannot weigh over 80,000 pounds. Furthermore, cargo loaders and truck drivers must ensure that weight is distributed evenly across the truck's axles, which may reduce the likelihood of rollover accidents and other cargo-related hazards.

The roads in the United States and trucks themselves can only handle so much weight. If a trucking company overloads vehicles (perhaps with the goal of moving more cargo), they endanger their drivers and those who share the road with them.

Truck Driver Hours of Operation Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandates that truck drivers must not drive for more than 11 consecutive hours and must not be on duty for more than 14 hours at a time. These are two of many hours of service regulations that truck drivers and their employers must honor. 

If truck drivers operate beyond maximum hours of service, they may be more prone to:

  • Drowsiness and falling asleep behind the wheel
  • Inattentiveness and distraction
  • Lose control emotionally and psychologically (including rage and annoyance)
  • Cause an accident

Truck drivers' schedules do not always fit easily within 11- and 14-hour shifts. However, trucking companies must emphasize the importance of abiding by these non-negotiable regulations and not set unrealistic expectations for the distances their drivers must cover.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 382 requires that trucking companies regularly test motor vehicle operators for substance and alcohol use.

Trucking companies must also generally:

  • Test any drivers they suspect of being intoxicated or under the influence of drugs while on the job
  • Take appropriate disciplinary action against those who violate substance and alcohol abuse guidelines
  • Terminate drivers who violate substance abuse guidelines multiple times or in an egregious manner 

Impairment by drugs or alcohol is one of the clearest dangers that truck drivers can pose to others. Trucking companies must do everything possible to ensure their drivers are alert and sober whenever they’re behind the wheel.

Special Training Requirements

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 380 governs minimum training requirements for drivers of longer combination vehicles (LCVs). These vehicles are longer than the standard tractor-trailer. If a trucking company allows an underqualified driver to operate a semi-truck or an LCV, it is violating FMCSA rules.

A truck driver who lacks the qualifications to operate a certain truck may:

  • Struggle to control the vehicle physically
  • Fail to understand the components of the motor vehicle
  • Not knowing how to recognize signs of problems with the vehicle 
  • Pose a greater risk of causing an accident than someone with the proper qualifications to drive the truck

All commercial truck drivers must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to work legally. Trucking companies must ensure that drivers’ licenses are valid at all times and refuse unlicensed or under-licensed drivers from operating trucks.

Vehicle Component Requirements

CFR Part 393 details all the components that trucks and trailers must contain to operate safely. This code also speaks about the regular inspection of trucks and trailers.

Truck drivers cannot operate a vehicle safely if it is unsafe. Trucking companies must inspect, repair, and replace vehicles and trailers as necessary and in accordance with FMCSA guidelines.

There are many other FMCSA guidelines that trucking companies must honor at all times. Whether knowingly or not, a trucking company that violates FMCSA guidelines is responsible for any resulting harm, including injuries to truck accident victims.

Why Do FMCSA Guidelines Exist?

FMCSA guidelines exist to provide uniformity and safety in an inherently dangerous industry. Large trucks are dangerous enough, especially because human error, vehicle-related defects, and unsafe road conditions are inevitable.

FMCSA guidelines aim to reduce some of the risks in the trucking industry by:

Ensuring the Workforce Is Alert and Drug- and Alcohol-Free

Hours of service regulations and mandatory drug and alcohol testing aim to ensure a sober, alert workforce. Drivers have a greater ability than any other party to cause or prevent truck accidents, so their physical and mental fitness is paramount.

Prohibiting Trucking Companies from Endangering Others by Trying to Save Money

Without FMCSA rules providing guardrails, trucking companies might attempt to save money by:

  • Having truck drivers work dangerously long hours
  • Overloading trucks with cargo will require fewer trips but put countless people in danger
  • Using trucks, trailers, and other equipment that is outdated or otherwise flawed
  • Engage in other actions that will save the trucking company money but will provide immediate and long-term danger to their drivers and others on the road

While we hope trucking companies will exercise caution and common sense if left to their devices, FMCSA rules leave nothing to chance. If a trucking company breaks the rules, they face financial liability (and in some cases criminal liability) for their dangerous actions.

Ensuring Truck Drivers Have the Qualifications to Operate Their Vehicles

FMCSA licensing requirements ensure that every truck driver has the training and experience necessary to drive their truck. Those who drive longer combination vehicles or trucks with hazardous cargo require additional licensing requirements, as they should.

FMCSA rules are necessary, and they save countless lives each year. When a trucking company veers from these guidelines and harms someone, those companies must pay for their negligence.

What Can Go Wrong When Trucking Companies Violate FMCSA Guidelines?

Some common FMCSA violations that endanger everyone include:

  • Encouraging or allowing drivers to operate beyond the hours of service limits
  • Failing to regularly test drivers for drug and alcohol use
  • Failing to test drivers who show signs of impairment
  • Failing to sanction drivers who speed, tailgate, and engage in other unsafe driving behaviors
  • Overloading trucks with cargo
  • Allowing unsafe vehicles to operate on roadways

FMCSA violations cause devastating outcomes, including:


Truck accidents pose a high risk of causing injuries, especially when a truck’s weight approaches the 80,000-pound maximum limit.

Injuries from a truck accident may include:

  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Broken bones
  • Internal injuries
  • Amputation injuries
  • Paralyzing injuries 
  • Severe cuts 
  • Scarring 

Injuries can cause extensive financial losses, rob victims of their physical and mental well-being, and change the course of the injured person's life. When seeking compensation from liable parties, your attorney will consider your injuries' full scope and cost.

Wrongful Deaths

When truck accidents happen, occupants of passenger vehicles are far more likely to die than those in the truck. Therefore, trucking companies that violate FMCSA rules know they risk lives.

Property Damage

While property damage pales in comparison to injuries and wrongful deaths, it is a likely outcome of truck accidents. Because trucks weigh far more than passenger vehicles, a truck accident may total another vehicle.

How Can You Hold Trucking Companies Accountable for FMCSA Violations (and Resulting Accidents)?

Many truck accident victims hire lawyers to hold trucking companies accountable for FMCSA violations. Generally, these victims have suffered injuries or lost a loved one because the trucking company contributed to an accident by violating FMCSA rules.

Attorneys serve truck accident victims by:

Identifying All FMCSA Rules the Trucking Company Violated

Your lawyer may work with trucking industry experts to identify any FMCSA rules the trucking company broke. Even if the company did not technically break any rules, it may have acted negligently.

Your lawyer will identify every instance of negligence that contributed to your accident.

Documenting Damages

Your attorney will document every damage resulting from your accident, and important documentation may include:

  • Medical images of your injuries
  • Medical bills
  • Expert testimony about your psychological and emotional symptoms
  • Invoices for the repair or replacement of your vehicle
  • Employment records indicating your absence from your job

As your attorney investigates and documents your damages, they will calculate the cost of each one. They will consider any future damages you're likely to experience and may employ economists and other experts to project the cost of those future damages.

Fighting for a Settlement 

A personal injury attorney aims to cover the entire cost of their client’s accident-related damages.

The value of a fair settlement may depend on:

  • Whether a truck accident involves a wrongful death
  • The severity of injuries
  • Whether any of your injuries are disabling
  • Your salary or income, which may determine the cost of your professional damages
  • Other factors specific to your accident and resulting damages

By hiring a lawyer, you don't have to concern yourself with the cost of damages. Your attorney will determine how much money you deserve, and then they'll fight for that compensation in settlement negotiations.

Taking the Case to Court, if Necessary

Your lawyer may take your case to court if settlement negotiations do not produce the desired result. If the case reaches trial, your attorney will argue in front of a judge and jury for the financial award you deserve.

A truck accident lawyer will oversee every other detail of your case, including:

  • Paperwork
  • Communications, including dealings with insurance companies
  • Securing evidence from the trucking company
  • Coordinating case-related appointments
  • Collaborating with experts, other lawyers, paralegals, and investigators 
  • Monitoring the progress of your claim or lawsuit

Strong attorneys tailor their representation to meet their client’s needs and requests. You should expect to have your lawyer’s phone number to receive regular updates about your case.

Should I Hire a Lawyer to Take on a Trucking Company?

It’s your decision whether to hire a lawyer to hold a trucking company accountable.

Many truck accident victims hire lawyers because:

  • They are unfamiliar with the process of completing a claim or lawsuit successfully
  • They do not want to pay out-of-pocket to complete their case (personal injury law firms generally cover the upfront cost of their cases)
  • They have mental and emotional injuries that make them intolerant of stress 
  • Their injuries cause physical limitations that will diminish their case
  • They trust that a truck accident lawyer will put forth the strongest case possible

Truck accidents are also associated with severe injuries and property damage. These outcomes are expensive, so truck accident cases often have significant compensation on the line. Many accident victims are happy to pay a lawyer’s contingency fee if that lawyer can get fair compensation for the victim’s damages. It’s usually significantly more than they can get alone—even after paying the lawyer.

Truck Accident Cases Are More Complicated Than Most, Which Is Why Many Victims Hire Personal Injury Lawyers

Truck accident cases may require:

  • Technical knowledge of trucks and the trucking industry
  • Legal action to prevent a liable trucking company from getting rid of important evidence
  • A relentless fight for a fair settlement
  • A trial

These are a few of the challenges that lead truck accident victims to hire personal injury lawyers.

Research and Retain a Personal Injury Lawyer as Soon as Possible

You can hire a personal injury lawyer at no upfront cost. The law firm will pay for your case and only receive a percentage of your financial recovery if they win.

Do not wait to find a lawyer, as you may face a strict deadline for filing your case.