Georgia trucking accidents and commercial vehicle accidents are significantly different than typical motor vehicle collisions that involve two individuals driving privately in vehicles and are not working on behalf of their employer at the time of the wreck. The primary reason for this is that tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles are governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which have also been adopted by the State of Georgia. A “commercial vehicle” is defined as any vehicle used on the highway or interstate transporting people or property with a gross weight lading of 10,001 pounds or more. This means that if the vehicle, trailer, and load equals more than 10,001 pounds, the vehicle is a “commercial vehicle.” And subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (“FMCSR”).
The FMCSR is a comprehensive framework of policies and procedures governing the operation and maintenance of tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles. Every company that operates commercial vehicles is subject to these regulations and the State of Georgia and all over the Country. A company can be held liable for any trucking accident or commercial vehicle accident that resulted from a violation of the FMCSR. Every driver of a commercial vehicle must perform a Pre-Trip inspection which involves inspecting the service brakes, parking brake, steering mechanism, lighting devices and reflectors, tires, horn, windshield wipers, rear vision mirrors, and coupling devices. The driver must document this Pre-Trip inspection and the driver’s employer must maintain these Pre-Trip inspection forms and keep them on file.
For drivers operating commercial vehicles in excess of 26,001 pounds, employers are required to conduct a comprehensive background check of the driver prior to beginning their employment. A driver applying for a job with a trucking company must complete an Application disclosing any moving violations or accidents for the 3-year period prior to the date of application and identifying each employer for whom the driver has worked for the past ten (10) years. In turn, within thirty (30) days of hiring a driver, the trucking company must send written inquiries to the driver’s prior employers for the 3-year period prior to the date of their employment and also must obtain a Moving Violations Report (“MVR”) from any state that has issued a license to the driver for the preceding 3-year period. The driver is also required to undergo an examination by a physician and obtain a Medical Examiner’s Certificate of Fitness. A Pre-Employment Drug and Alcohol Screening is also mandatory.
The FMCSR also contains a maximum number of hours that a driver can be on duty during any day or week. All operators of commercial vehicles are required to keep track of their work hours and driving hours and make distinctions between the two. A driver operating a vehicle over 26,001 pounds must keep a daily log of the hours and miles driven. In the past, drivers typically kept their logs by recording them in a notebook by hand. In recent years, a Daily Electronic Log, generated through an onboard GPS recording system, have become much more common.
As noted above, any violation of the FMCSR that was a contributing factor to a collision is admissible and the employer and driver are liable for each such FMCSR violation. Because the trucking companies and their employee drivers are under no obligation to disclose any of the documentation described above pre-suit, in almost every Georgia trucking accident or commercial vehicle accident, it is advisable to file a lawsuit in order to get subpoena power over the defendants. This is in contrast to a typical motor vehicle collision involving two individuals driving their private vehicles and not “on the job” for their employer; many of these cases are settled without the necessity of filing a lawsuit. In a Georgia trucking accident or commercial vehicle accident case, in all most every instance, a lawsuit should be filed to explore whether the trucking company and its driver complied with all of the appropriate FMCSR regulations.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a trucking accident or commercial vehicle accident in Georgia, we encourage you to contact one of the experienced trucking accident attorneys at Finch McCranie, LLP for a free consultation.