5 Regulations U.S. Truck Drivers Must Adhere To

The U.S. trucking industry will reach an annual revenue of around $1.3 trillion in 2024. There are an estimated 3.5 million truck drivers on American roads at any given time. 

Trucks mainly transport goods, including agricultural products and food. There is a lot of talk about autonomous trucks and green trucking solutions in 2024. But this will not reduce the sheer number of trucks on the road. 

Thousands of trucks on busy highways come with risks for drivers and pedestrians. This is why there is a stringent set of laws and rules that U.S. truck drivers must abide by. 

For instance, commercial truck drivers follow the 14-hour rule. This rule states that drivers must finish all driving-related duties within a 14-hour shift and take off 10 hours directly afterward. This is a non-negotiable rule, which helps reduce fatigue and lowers the risk of accidents. 

Other regulations that protect truck drivers and other road users include the following: 

Driving Hours (Hours of Service) Regulations 

In addition to the 14-hour rule, drivers must adhere to other driving hours-related regulations. These regulations are set out by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) and may differ slightly between states. 

The Department of Transport (DOT) decides on the regulations, and the FMCSA enforces them. For example, New York truck drivers who carry property can drive for 11 hours if they have been off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours. If drivers take a 10-hour break, they can drive a 14-hour shift. 

However, drivers must take a break to rest for at least half an hour between eight-hour shifts. New York drivers can also drive 60 hours within seven days or 70 hours in eight days. 

Drivers who carry passengers must be off duty for eight consecutive hours to drive 10 hours. Even if a driver is off duty for eight consecutive hours, they may not drive after 15 hours on duty. 

Truck drivers in Texas follow much of the same regulations. Here, drivers must also take a break of 34 consecutive hours to get enough rest before starting another driving cycle. 

Licensing Laws

The FMCSA also mandates the requirements for commercial truck driver’s licenses. Firstly, any driver who wants to operate a CMV (commercial motor vehicle) must have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Before they obtain this license, drivers are tested on their driving skills and knowledge. 

A truck driver cannot apply for a commercial driver’s license without a valid non-commercial driver’s license. Anyone applying to drive across state lines or operate trucks carrying dangerous materials must be at least 18 or 21 years old, depending on the state. Drivers must have a minimum of one year of driving experience and zero traffic violations or license suspensions. They must also have a valid medical certificate. 

When drivers apply for a commercial license, they undergo testing to assess their knowledge of commercial vehicle operation and traffic laws. This is done to ensure that drivers practice safe driving habits, keeping themselves and others safe. 

Insurance Requirements

The FMCSA also enforces liability insurance regulations for truck drivers. Insurance is non-negotiable in the trucking industry. All interstate drivers must carry the minimum insurance coverage. 

Should a truck driver cause an accident that leads to damages of more than $1,000,000, their insurance coverage must pay for at least $1,000,000. If the driver has an insurance policy with a limit of $500,000 or less, the limit will have to increase in case of an accident. 

Commercial truckers, as mandated by the FMCSA, must carry public liability insurance. This insurance coverage will pay out in the event of damage to persons and property. The coverage is determined based on the cargo transported.

For instance, if a truck transports goods that weigh less than 10,000 pounds and are non-hazardous, the coverage can be $300,000. If the goods weigh over 10,000 pounds, the coverage can be anything from $750,000 to $5,000,000. 

A truck transporting home-related goods should have cargo insurance that covers up to $5,000 per truck. The insurance for the home items themselves should be $10,000 per event or incident. 

Furthermore, whenever a private or commercial truck transports oil, there must be at least $1,000,000 in insurance coverage in place. 

Size and Weight Restrictions

Trucks also have size and weight limits imposed by state and federal regulations. This prevents road damage due to trucks that do not have their weight distributed across a sufficiently large area. 

Bridges across the country also play into these limits. Whenever overloaded trucks come into contact with bridges, it makes them weaker. This can lead to worn bridges or even complete failure. 

Also, trucks that weigh too much may lead to penalties because truck weight directly impacts shipping tax. 

Drug and Alcohol Testing Requirements

Commercial truck drivers must attend at least one hour of training on alcohol abuse symptoms and one hour of training on substance abuse symptoms. Additionally, the FMCSA enforces a comprehensive drug and alcohol testing program for all trucking companies. 

According to this program, new drivers must undergo drug and alcohol testing. Drivers may also be subjected to random testing throughout their careers. 

If a supervisor suspects that a driver may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they have the right to initiate a test. Should a driver be involved in an accident, they may also be tested for alcohol or drug use. 

Supervisors may also refer a truck driver for testing if there is a suspicion that the driver remained on duty while over the legal limit. A driver can be tested if they drank alcohol within four hours of arriving for work. A test is also necessary if the driver uses a substance not prescribed by a doctor. 

FMCSA Regulations Help Make U.S. Roads Safer

These five regulations form part of the strict laws that trucking companies and drivers must adhere to in the U.S. By ensuring that only qualified drivers operate commercial trucks (substance-free), these laws make U.S. roads safer every day. 

Trucking companies and drivers must stay updated with regulation changes to avoid unnecessary fines and penalties or, worse, accidents. This way, the trucking industry will continue contributing to the economy safely and efficiently.