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Houston Trucking Laws & Regulations

No one is above the law. All road users, including truck drivers in Houston, must obey all state and federal laws and regulations set for the trucking industry. In truth, if all road users obeyed traffic laws, most of the accidents we witness on our roads would be avoided.

Interestingly, over 166 million commercial and private trucks were registered in the U.S. in 2021, with California and Texas having the most licensed trucks at 15.9 million and 14.6 million, respectively. This goes to show you how many trucks traverse our nation. Most drivers operating these trucks obey rules and regulations set by the federal government for interstate travel and those set by state agencies for intrastate travel.

Regrettably, others disregard the same rules and regulations and endanger the well-being of other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.

If you are involved in a truck accident in Houston, TX, it’s imperative to know Houston trucking laws and regulations and how they may affect your personal injury claim or lawsuit. The lawyers at Johnson Garcia are ready to help you understand the ins and outs of federal and state laws today. We are also here to address any questions or concerns you may have about regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) or the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Federal Requirements for the Trucking Industry

According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), approximately 3.49 million truck drivers were employed all across the U.S. in 2021, with nearly 39 million trucks being registered and used for business purposes in 2020.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the federal agency mandated to regulate the trucking industry. Its main role is to prevent deaths and injuries related to commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). FMCSA comes up with federal requirements that the trucking industry, which includes companies and drivers, must abide by. These requirements are meant to ensure the safety of the trucking industry, road users, and the general public.

Some of the key federal requirements established by FMCSA include:

Driver Qualifications

Drivers of CMVs must be at least 21 years old and have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL). Truck drivers must also be able to speak and understand English in order to operate CMVs.

Physical Requirements

Truck drivers are prohibited from consuming alcohol or using drugs. FMCSA mandates alcohol and drug testing programs for truckers, including random testing, pre-employment testing, post-accident testing, and follow-up testing.

Regular medical exams ensure truck drivers are capable of performing their jobs in a safe and regulated manner. These exams check to see if truckers have experienced any changes in their:

  • Vision
  • Hearing
  • Blood pressure
  • Urinalysis
  • Heart health
  • Color distinction
  • Medication
  • Medical history

Loss of sight or difficulty with hearing can severely impact a trucker’s ability to drive safely, putting the well-being and lives of other road users at risk.

Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations

Property-carrying drivers are limited to a maximum of 11 hours of driving after resting for 10 consecutive hours without driving. HOS regulations also limit drivers to 60 hours per week and require them to take 34 or more hours off duty after attaining the 60-hour threshold.

Insurance Minimums

Interstate trucking companies must maintain a minimum liability coverage of $750,000 to a maximum of $5,000,000, depending on the goods transported. For non-hazardous freight transported in vehicles weighing under 10,001 pounds, the minimum liability coverage is $300,000.

The FMCSA also requires trucking companies and drivers to establish regular inspection, repair, and maintenance programs to guarantee the safe operation of their trucks. Truck drivers hauling hazardous materials must be specially trained and equipped to safely handle such materials.

Houston Trucking Rules and Regulations

Texas is home to nearly 200,000 commercial truckers operating different routes, from intrastate to interstate. State CMV rules and regulations govern the intrastate trucking industry. Houston trucking laws and regulations are designed to ensure the safety of the industry and the general public. Some of the requirements for the trucking industry in Houston, TX, include:

Hours of Service Rules

To reduce incidents of fatigue and drowsy driving accidents, Texas requires drivers of CMVs to obey the following rules:

  • Truck drivers may only drive for up to 12 hours at a time.
  • Drivers must be off duty for 8 hours before beginning a shift.
  • Drivers must not be on duty for over 70 hours over 7 consecutive days.
  • Drivers may only be on duty for 15 consecutive hours.

On-duty time can include maintenance, loading, and other non-driving truck-related activities.

Commercial Driver’s License Requirements

Under Texas trucking industry laws, a Houston driver operating a CMV on Texas roads and highways must carry a commercial driver’s license (CDL). These licenses set critical minimum standards for commercial drivers all across the state.

To obtain a CDL, a driver must have a valid Texas driver’s license and also take specialized knowledge and skills tests to receive an endorsement. For intrastate driving, commercial truck drivers must:

  • Reside in Texas
  • Meet all fitness requirements outlined by FMCSA
  • Be at least 18 years old (21 years for interstate driving)
  • Meet any state physical and mental requirements

Weight Regulations

A truck driver’s responsible for inspecting cargo, ensuring it is properly secured and distributed, knowing its weight, and ensuring the CMV isn’t overloaded. Under Houston trucking laws and regulations, truck drivers must know the following:

  • Their tire load
  • Axle weight
  • Gross combination weight rating
  • Gross vehicle weight rating

According to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV), the maximum gross weight of a truck plus its cargo should be 80,000 pounds, with the maximum weight on a single axle being 20,000 pounds.

Various exceptions may apply to these weight limits. For this reason, it’s best to contact a Houston truck accident lawyer to understand which Houston trucking laws and regulations may apply, what cargo was on board, and if the driver had a valid CDL.

Commonly Reported Truck Driver Violations

When a truck accident occurs in Houston, the most common cause is human error. In most cases, the truck driver violated laws established by the FMCSA or the state. Some of the frequently cited trucker violations include:

  • Not wearing a seat belt
  • Speeding between 6-10 mph over the posted speed limit
  • Disregarding hours of service rules
  • Failing to record duty status in their logbooks

Failing to obey federal and state trucking regulations can result in steep fines for drivers or even the suspension or revocation of their CDLs.

Find Out How Houston Trucking Laws and Regulations May Affect Your Case

If you or someone you care about has been injured in a truck wreck in Houston, you need an experienced 18-wheeler accident lawyer in your corner. At Johnson Garcia, we understand how trucking companies and truck drivers attempt to get around safety rules and regulations. Our legal team will comprehensively investigate your case to uncover any violations of the law by the truck driver or their employer. Once we find a violation, Johnson Garcia will aggressively pursue legal action to hold liable parties accountable for their actions.

To learn more about these laws and what we can do for you, call us at 832-844-6700 or fill out our online contact form.

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