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Federal Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations

Posted on August 3, 2019

Commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are tightly regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Commercial motor vehicles are typically large vehicles used for interstate transport of passengers or property. Today, we want to discuss some of the regulations in place when it comes to commercial vehicle companies and drivers. It is important to note that FMCSA rules and regulations only apply to vehicles that travel between states. Commercial vehicles that travel only in Florida are not subject to federal regulations.

The primary mission of the FMCSA is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving commercial vehicles in the US. Some of the most common vehicles regulated by the FMCSA include:

  • Tractor-trailers
  • Large passenger buses
  • Tanker trucks
  • Flatbed trucks
  • Delivery trucks
  • And more

In general, all commercial vehicles that meet the following circumstances that operate interstate fall under FMCSA rules: 

  • A gross weight rating or gross combination weight over 10,001 pounds
  • Designed to transport between 9 and 15 passengers (driver included) for compensation
  • Designed to transport 16 or more passengers
  • Any size vehicle used to transport hazardous materials covered under the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act.

What are the basic regulations?

The most common regulations set forth by the FMCSA are the number of hours a driver can operate. The hours of service (HOS) guidelines for property-carrying commercial vehicles are as follows:

  • Each duty period must begin with a least 10 hours off-duty.
  • Drivers cannot work more than 60 hours on-duty over seven consecutive days.
  • Drivers may be on-duty for up to 14 hours following 10 hours off-duty but are limited to 11 hours of driving time.
  • Drivers must take a 30-minute break by their eight-hour on-duty.
  • The 14-hour duty period may not be extended with off-duty meal, break, or fuel stops.
  • A 7-day period can be restarted every 168-hour workweek.

The HOS guidelines for passenger-carrying vehicles are as follows:

  • FMCSA rules prohibit passenger-carrying drivers to operate more than 10 hours at a time or to drive after having been on duty for more than 15 hours.
  • After a 10 to 15-hour on-duty period, drivers must be allowed 8 hours off-duty.
  • The weekly hourly limitations are the same as those for property-carrying vehicles.

If a driver violates these rules, the FMCSA can levy civil penalties on the driver or company ($1,000 to $11,000 per violation depending on the severity). Drivers can be shut down on the roadside, and the carrier’s safety rating can be downgraded.

Inspections and maintenance of commercial motor vehicles

Vehicle failure is a leading cause of commercial motor vehicle crashes. The FMCSA requires that “Every motor carrier shall systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained, all motor vehicles subject to its control.”

  • All parts of the vehicle must be safe and in proper condition at all times.
  • All vehicles must have an annual DOT inspection.
  • All periodic inspections must be properly recorded according to the requirements of the state.

Aside from regular inspections, drivers should conduct pre- and post-trip inspections on their trucks to ensure everything is in working order. Drivers and companies who operate vehicles that have not been inspected (or if they knowingly operate a vehicle with maintenance problems) could be liable in the event of an accident.