Semi-trucks and tractor-trailers are essential parts of the American economy. But these highway behemoths are also responsible for thousands of deaths every year in the U.S.—at least when they aren’t driven, maintained, or loaded properly.
Because of the risks associated with big trucks and their massive size, which can be dozens of feet in length and up to 80,000 lbs in weight, there’s an entire wing of the Department of Transportation that’s in charge of regulating them—the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA has its own guidelines that truck drivers, owners, and companies must abide by in addition to standard traffic laws.
- Weight limits—Trucks can’t exceed weight limits based on their engine, trailer, overall size, permits, and more. When trucks exceed their weight limits, they can be more difficult to steer, slow down, and stop.
- Hours of service limits—Truck drivers can only drive a certain number of hours in a given period. That’s to reduce the risk that truck drivers will go on little sleep to maximize profits. Drowsy truck drivers are significant risk to everyone they share the road with.
- License requirements—All big truck drivers must have standard CDLs. But many truck drivers require endorsements and certifications beyond that. For example, drivers hauling hazardous or flammable cargo need additional endorsements on their CDLs to be allowed to drive.
Due to the fact that the trucking industry is governed by both standard traffic laws AND FMCSA laws, there’s often a lot that can be blamed on all parties associated with trucks, especially when it comes to proving fault after crashes.