California's Trucking Industry Regulations and How They Impact Accident Victims

Justice on the Highway: How Trucking Safety Regulations Impact Accident Victims

Accidents involving commercial trucks, tractor-trailers, and 18-wheelers can be harrowing, life-altering events. If you’ve survived a truck accident or your loved one has passed away in a truck crash, you’re familiar with the toll these incidents can take.

Both federal and California trucking safety regulations play a crucial role in preventing truck crashes. But when trucking companies fail to follow the laws that regulate the industry – or bend the rules to meet deadlines – that negligence can lead to tragic trucking accidents.

Fortunately, state and federal laws also grant survivors and families of victims the right to recover compensation for injuries and losses caused by violations of trucking industry laws. It’s critical to understand your rights and contact an experienced California truck accident lawyer who can handle this type of high-stakes case and get justice for you and your family.

Understanding California’s Trucking Industry Regulations

Central California’s bustling highways and Southern California’s many active shipping ports see a huge amount of trucking traffic. As a result, robust trucking regulations are absolutely essential to keeping both commercial truck drivers and regular motorists safe on the road.

Trucking companies operating in California must do so within the following regulations:

  • Regular Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance – One of the most important cornerstones of trucking safety is the proper inspection and maintenance of commercial vehicles to make sure that they’re roadworthy. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) oversees these standards to make sure all trucks meet the state’s strict standards. By requiring regular inspections, the state ensures that trucking companies identify and fix mechanical issues before they lead to vehicle failure on the road.
  • Truck and Trailer Weight Limits – California laws enforce weight limits on trucks to prevent overloading, which can lead to accidents caused by rollovers or tire blowouts. Violating these weight limits can have severe consequences for trucking companies and their drivers, not to mention making a good case for negligence.
  • Driver Qualifications and Licensing – Trucking companies operating within California must employ qualified and licensed drivers. The state’s driver qualifications aim to ensure that only skilled and responsible individuals operate these massive vehicles. Truck drivers must carry a Commercial Driver’s License, which requires passing a series of tests and meeting certain age and experience requirements. In addition, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) carries out mandatory drug testing for trucking company employees and commercial owner-operators. 
  • Hours of Service Regulations – California state law enforces strict HOS regulations limiting the number of hours a truck driver can spend actively driving. These laws require rest periods so that drivers remain alert while on the job. Trucking companies that push their drivers to exceed these limits put lives in danger.
  • Cargo Safety Regulations – All trucks operating on California roads must meet state standards to ensure that cargo is loaded, secured, and transported safely. That includes weight limits not just on the entire vehicle but also on each individual axle, as overloading can cause accidents from instability or failed brakes. In addition, cargo must be secured in a way to prevent accidents caused by shifting loads, making sure that the cargo won’t spill onto the road and create hazards for other motorists.
  • Environmental Regulations – California is at the forefront of environmental regulations, and that includes the trucking industry. As recently as of January 1, 2023, all trucks over 26,000 pounds must be equipped with engines built no later than 2010. The state is also moving to ban the sale of new diesel tractor-trailers in the coming decade.
  • Record-Keeping and Documentation – Trucking companies must keep certain documents and records for state authorities to check for compliance. According to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), commercial trucking operations must maintain records involving driver’s licenses and any other necessary certificates, vehicle registration documents, inspection reports, proofs of insurance, permits or papers for special, hazardous, or overweight loads, hours of service logs, fuel tax permits, and more depending on the goods being shipped. Driver logs are especially important to monitor hours worked and rest periods.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also sets federal standards that trucking companies must meet across the country, including in California.

The Importance of California’s Trucking Safety Standards

Trucking regulations are the basic standards required to operate a commercial big rig in the state of California. They are the backbone of road safety, with the purpose of protecting all motorists on the road from the destructive power of these massive vehicles in a crash.

When a trucking company violates safety standards, that can significantly increase the risk of accidents. For example, an overloaded truck may struggle to stop in time because its brakes can’t handle the weight, leading to a rear-end collision.

If a trucking company violates any of these regulations and causes an accident as a result, it can be held liable for damages, including for personal injuries and wrongful death. Trucking accidents can impact victims for a lifetime – California’s laws ensure that commercial trucking companies take responsibility for the people affected by their negligence.

Trucking safety standards play a pivotal role in accident prevention. They’re more than just rules on paper – they directly impact the safety of the roads you travel on every single day.

Recovery for Trucking Accident Victims

In California, when a trucking company violates safety standards and causes an accident, the company can be held liable for damages suffered by the other victims of the crash. These damages could cover your medical expenses, the value of your car, your lost income, and your pain and suffering. Survivors of victims who’ve passed away can also recover similar damages.

Because trucking accidents often end up causing severe injuries, the stakes can be extremely high – sometimes millions of dollars. Trucking companies and their insurance companies usually don’t want to pay for their negligent actions, so they may give crash victims the runaround.

The best way to protect your rights and ensure that you get the full recovery you deserve is to talk to a truck accident lawyer who can advocate for a proper settlement. At Sepulveda Sanchez Law, we can help. Contact us now for your free case consultation.