Updated May 23, 2020
Collisions involving commercial motor vehicles can be devastating and expensive for all parties involved. For this reason, there are multiple federal and state laws and regulations that trucking companies and commercial truck drivers need to keep in mind as they conduct their business on the road.
Agencies like the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) lay out the guidelines on the federal level. In addition to these regulations, drivers in the state of Indiana must follow laws that regulate traffic and commercial activity at the state level.
All drivers of commercial motor vehicles must carry a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Farmers, military personnel, emergency equipment operators, firefighters, and drivers of recreational vehicles generally are not required to hold CDLs.
To obtain a CDL in Indiana, drivers must carry a valid Indiana operator’s license, pass a written knowledge test at an Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch, pass a CDL skills test, and a provide a doctor’s physical examination for the DOT. Property-carrying drivers must be at least eighteen years old, and passenger-carrying drivers must be at least twenty-one years old. FMCSA requires that all commercial motor vehicle drivers who cross state lines be at least twenty-one years old.
CDLs fall into three categories, designated for vehicles of varying weights, cargo, and passenger capacity:
Trucking companies are responsible for knowing who they hire. If they do not follow the appropriate hiring or evaluation practices, companies could face investigation and penalties.
Employers need to confirm that their drivers meet the requirements laid out by FMCSA, which include background checks and a physical examination. Employers must check employees’ criminal records, social security numbers, and employment history during their screening process, and employers may require a drug test as well. Upon hiring, employers are responsible for screening their drivers periodically to make sure that they continue to be healthy and physically fit to work, obedient of state and federal laws, and not impairing their driving ability with alcohol or drugs on duty.
Indiana commercial drivers can have their licenses suspended or revoked as a penalty for breaking the law. Major violations, including driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, fleeing from the scene of an accident, or driving a vehicle without a valid license on hand can lead to a one-year suspension for a first-time violation or a lifetime suspension for a second violation.
Other traffic violations, such as speeding or running a stoplight, can also result in penalties. A first-time violation generally does not lead to a penalty, but a second-time violation within three years could lead to a sixty-day suspension of the license. The suspension length goes up to one hundred and twenty days for a third-time violation.
There are also specific CDL penalties set on the federal level that involve the policies and procedures for trucking companies, freight companies, and drivers. Offenses can include driving a vehicle more than the weight limit, illegally carrying oversized loads, or failure to document repairs. Commercial drivers cannot renew a suspended CDL in a different state.
Personal traffic violations can also lead to suspension of a commercial license.
Because large commercial vehicles are heavy and mechanically complex, FMCSA requires that all commercial vehicles are regularly maintained and in good working order. Key components of the vehicle—such as brakes, transmission, and tires—need to be inspected every twelve months and kept in decent shape, and the condition of the vehicle must be reported on periodically. The inspection report must be kept inside of the vehicle, along with all records of repairs and inspections.
Drivers of commercial vehicles must comply with hours of service regulations. Property-carrying drivers can drive for a maximum of eleven hours after ten hours off-duty, and they cannot drive beyond the fourteenth consecutive hours after ten off-duty hours. Passenger-carrying drivers can drive for a maximum of ten hours, and there must be at least fifteen hours between shifts.
Additionally, commercial drivers’ workweek cannot exceed seventy hours without a thirty-four hour break.
Traffic laws are complex, especially under the umbrella of interstate commerce. If you have been injured by a commercial driver in Indiana, contact the Indianapolis Truck Accident Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you navigate commercial traffic laws and get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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