Common Safety Trucking Violations in Indiana
Accidents involving commercial trucks can lead to serious injury and even death. According to recent data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a total of 4,714 people lost their lives in large truck crash accidents in 2021.
Accidents involving a large truck are more likely to result in severe injury and even death when the accident occurs with a smaller passenger vehicle. Additionally, 16% of accidents involving large commercial trucks and passenger vehicles resulted in the death of the truck occupant while an overwhelming 68% of accidents resulted in the death of occupants in cars and other passenger vehicles.
Despite the dangers that exist with truck accidents, many of these crashes are avoidable. Like all other states, Indiana observes strict safety rules and guidelines for truckers. Unfortunately, violations still occur and lead to the injury and death of truckers and other motorists. Let’s take a look at some of the most common trucking safety violations in Indiana.
Committing a Moving Violation
As with any passenger vehicle, drivers of commercial vehicles are required to observe federal, state, and local traffic laws. If a truck driver commits a moving violation such as speeding, driving recklessly, following too closely, or even a hit and run, drivers can be subjected to fines and even criminal charges.
In addition to following traffic regulations, truck drivers must also adhere to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations that impose additional safety rules for truck drivers.
Using a Hand-Held Cellphone While Driving
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle crash injuries and fatalities. In 2021, 3,522 people were killed on U.S. roadways because of distracted driving.
The rules of distracted driving apply to truck drivers as well, making it a safety violation for truck drivers to use handheld cell phones while driving for both phone calls and texting. Truck drivers are, however, allowed to use their company headsets to communicate with dispatchers and other parties.
Possessing Narcotics, Amphetamines, or Alcohol While on Duty
It is against federal law for truck drivers to use narcotics or amphetamines while on duty and while they are driving. For some drivers, the long stretches of driving hours can take a toll on their bodies. Some drivers may be tempted to turn to stimulants including narcotics or amphetamines to stay alert and awake. This is strictly prohibited both while they are on duty and while they are driving. Even if the driver is not using such drugs, merely having them in their possession in the truck cab can be enough to charge them with a violation.
Additionally, federal law prohibits truck drivers from having alcohol both in the cabin or engaging in alcohol use during certain periods. Truck drivers are not allowed to use alcohol within four hours of operating their trucks.
Having Unauthorized Passengers on Board
Being a truck driver can be a lonely profession. Drivers are on the road for long stretches of time, usually without someone else to accompany them and the time can feel slow, daunting, and lonely.
Long-haul truck drivers may be tempted to bring along an authorized passenger including a friend or family member to keep them company. Like many states, this is strictly prohibited as an unauthorized passenger can serve as a liability in the event of an accident.
Size and Weight Limits
Indiana law has strict limits regarding the size and weight of semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles. When a trucker goes above these size and weight limits, a violation occurs. Indiana’s size and weight limits are as follows:
- Max gross weight: 80,000 lbs.
- Max single axle weight: 20,000 lbs.
- Max tandem axle weight: 34,000 lbs.
- Max tri-axle weight: 50,000 lbs.
- Max wheel weight: 800 lbs. per inch of tire width
Trucks must also adhere to certain size limits. Typical size limits are a maximum width of 8’6,” a maximum length of 50 feet, and a maximum height of 13’6.”
Hours of Service Violations
Another one of the most serious safety violations truckers can sometimes fall into is going over their hours of service. There are strict rules for how long a trucker can be on duty before they have to park their truck and take a rest. Going above these hours can cause fatigue and drowsiness and might even prompt some drivers to use stimulants to stay awake. Federal law requires the following safety guidelines for all truckers regarding their service hours:
- Truck drivers may not drive more than 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- Truck drivers may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming on duty (this may include non-driving time), after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Truck drivers are required to take a 30-minute rest break after eight cumulative hours of driving without a prior break of at least 30 minutes off duty. Short-haul trips do not always have to adhere to this rule.
- Drivers may not drive more than 60 hours on duty within a seven-day period, or more than 70 hours on duty within an eight-day period. This seven-day or eight-day clock is restarted after a driver takes at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.
- To ensure that truck drivers adhere to these rules, they must keep a log that details the hours of driving in compliance with regulations.
When to Speak With a Truck Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in a trucking accident or have lost a loved one because of a large truck crash, you have certain rights and legal options that can help you with your recovery and your path forward.
At Lee Cossell & Feagley LLP, our team is committed to representing all victims of trucking-related accidents. Contact our team today to schedule a free consultation on your case and get the legal representation you deserve as you move forward following a truck accident injury.