What Is the Role of the FMCSA In the Trucking Industry?

trucks in new york - What Is the FMCSA and Why Is it Important

Recent Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates suggest over 415,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in the United States. More than 101,000 of those crashes left Americans injured, while 4,444 of those collisions proved fatal. Being injured in a crash with a large truck can be a life-altering event. With that in mind, the federal government established the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a government organization designed to help keep you safe on the open road.

In this post, Finz & Finz, P.C. will highlight what this agency does and why they are essential for maintaining and enforcing safety standards within the commercial trucking industry.

What Is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration was established on January 1st, 2000, according to the provisions of the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999. The agency was formed within the Department of Transportation to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. To carry out its mission, the FMCSA says it develops and enforces data-driven regulations to increase the safety and efficiency of commercial vehicles, harnesses safety data to focus on high-risk carriers, and promotes educational messages targeted to carriers, drivers, and the public.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the FMCSA provides safety oversight of more than 500,000 commercial vehicles, 4,000 interstate bus companies, and over four million commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders. At the core of the agency’s mission is promoting safety programs and regulations that help reduce the number of collisions involving commercial trucks on American roadways.

What Does the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Do?

The FMCSA regulates over half a million interstate freight motor carriers, 13,000 passenger carriers, and 17,000 intrastate-only hazardous materials carriers. The agency is responsible for outlining the minimum standards these motor carriers must adhere to for safe operation. FMCSA rulemaking can be complicated and involves examining vast accident and safety data.

The organization considers commercial company concerns over efficiency with federal safety regulations to create balanced policies to protect the public. Essentially, the organization lays the groundwork for safety programs, accountability in the trucking industry, and federal regulatory compliance.

What Does the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulate?

The FMCSA has overarching authority to regulate all aspects of commercial vehicle safety. Some of the most vital regulations established and enforced by the FMCSA include:

  • Hours of Service – Hours of service regulations outline the maximum time commercial drivers can be behind the wheel. Property-carrying commercial drivers may only operate a vehicle for a maximum of 11 hours after ten consecutive hours off duty. These regulations also mandate driver breaks, sleeper berth provisions, and maximum hours on duty per seven to eight consecutive days. Data indicates 13 percent of crashes may be associated with fatigued drivers. The purpose of hours-of-service regulations is to help prevent commercial drivers from causing accidents due to fatigued driving, ensuring truck drivers take enough time to rest and recharge before hitting the road again.
  • Drug and alcohol testing – The FMCSA requires individuals applying for a CDL license or those currently holding a valid CDL to submit to regular drug and alcohol testing.
  • Labeling hazardous materials – To improve communication and enhance safety, the organization also mandates specific labeling requirements for vehicles hauling hazardous materials that could harm the public or the environment.
  • Securing cargo – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also enforces rules governing securing cargo for transport. These rules outline the types of equipment and securing devices drivers and cargo loaders must use, the location and use of anchor points, the minimum number of tie-downs, as well as cargo weight limits.
  • Safety inspections – The agency is also responsible for creating and enforcing rules surrounding vehicle safety inspections, repair, and maintenance. Every motor carrier must systematically conduct safety inspections and carry out repairs and maintenance, ensuring that all parts and accessories are in safe and proper working condition.
  • Cell phone use – The rise of the cell phone meant the agency also had to establish rules regulating how and when drivers could use cellular phones behind the wheel. The FMCSA prohibits drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating commercial motor vehicles. Those who violate FMCSA rules can face steep fines and potentially the suspension or removal of their commercial driver’s license. Trucking companies can also face significant fines and penalties when drivers call or text while operating a commercial vehicle.

Although these are some of the most significant regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, this is not an exhaustive list of the organization’s rules and regulations. The agency has broad jurisdiction over the commercial trucking industry.

Why Is the FMCSA Important?

The FMCSA plays a vital role in keeping America’s roads safe. Commercial vehicles and buses are mammoth vehicles weighing as much as 80,000 pounds. These types of motor vehicles can cause catastrophic damage to smaller passenger vehicles, motorcycle riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians. However, part of the problem with regulating commercial vehicles stems from the patchwork of local and state laws governing driver safety. Commercial vehicles crisscross the country delivering goods. What may be acceptable in one jurisdiction might not be regulated in another area, and vice versa.

To avoid confusion and establish ground rules for every commercial driver and trucking company in the nation, the federal government designated overarching rules that apply to everyone in the industry. Blanket regulations set minimum standards for all drivers to abide by, avoiding potential confusion when crossing state lines. Having a federal agency in charge of safety and regulations also means the organization has the authority and resources to penalize drivers and companies that cut corners and jeopardize public safety.

With the FMCSA overseeing safety regulations, the agency also has a wealth of data and information. It can review data and current policies and update regulations to reflect changes in technology and the trucking industry.

Injured in a Truck Accident? Contact an Experienced New York Truck Accident Attorney Now

Has a careless truck driver injured you? Don’t wait, and don’t communicate with the trucking company on your own. Contact an experienced New York truck accident attorney immediately. At Finz & Finz, P.C., we can review your case and collect relevant evidence before it can be lost or destroyed. If a driver or trucking company violated FMCSA rules, you may be able to pursue significant compensation for your injuries.

Contact our office today at (8555) TOP-FIRM for a free case review.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.