Hit by a Company Truck; What Laws Apply in Georgia?

When you get hit by a company truck or van, make sure you are doing your homework and know whether certain commercial vehicle regulations apply to them. One of the common mistakes inexperienced lawyers make when dealing with company vehicles is that they assume that if the driver does not have a commercial drivers license and the company only operates intrastate, then the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations do not apply. This is wrong.

Under Georgia law there are strict commercial regulations on any vehicle being used for commercial purposes and weighing over 10,000 pounds, regardless of whether the driver has a CDL or not. Georgia's Department of Public Safety decided to apply a number of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The Georgia Regulation says:
"Rule 515-16-4-.01. Motor Carrier Safety (Adoption of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules)

The Motor Carrier Safety Regulations issued by the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (hereinafter "FMCSA"), contained in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 350, 382, 383, and 390 through 397, as now in force and as hereafter amended (hereinafter referee to as "the Federal Safety Rules"), are by this Rule made Transportation Rules of this Commission for all carriers regulated by this Commission; and the Commission Staff shall enforce such Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules and cooperate with other State and local law enforcement agencies in doing so to the extent such Federal Safety Rules are applicable to carriers regulated by the Commission."

So when do these Georgia rules apply?

If the commercial vehicle being used weighs over 10,000 pounds and is being used in commerce. Here are someexamples of vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds but less than 14,000 pounds; the Dodge 3500, the GMC Sierra 3500, the Ford E-350.

Examples of vehicles weighing 14,000 to 18,000 pounds include: the Dodge 4500, GMC 4500, the Ford E-450, the Dodge 5500, GMC 5500, and the Ford F-550.

Now that you know what vehicles you are looking for the question is; what extra regulations apply even to short haul drivers?

1. The drivers have to take an annual DOT physical exam. Look for drivers on duty who are insulin dependent or have other serious medical issues.
2. They cannot use radar detectors.
3. They must do pre and post trip safety inspections on the vehicles.
4. They must conduct annual safety inspections of the vehicles.
5. The drivers must not stay on duty beyond the hours of service limitations and have time records.

Hours of Service:

Long haul over the road drivers with an operational radius beyond 150 miles are subject to the Federal Hours of Service Regulations but there are strict rules for short haul drivers.

These drivers may drive for a maximum of 11 hours after 10 hours off duty. The employer is required to have accurate time records for 6 month looking back on a rolling basis. 

In a case we handled a driver for a refreshment company testified that he regularly worked more than 10 hour days and got no breaks. On the day of the wreck in question he had been on duty for 12 hours at the time of the crash. It is critical to send spoliation letters and discovery requests that pin down and preserve the employers time records. 

If the employer fails to retain the records a presumption that the records supported the driver being overly tired can be made.

If the vehicle is over 10,000 pounds and the vehicle operates across state lines then there are separate federal regulations that are triggered:
  • there must be a valid USDOT physical exam
  • the driver is subject to the regular Hours of Service requirements.
  • they must display the DOT number on the side of the vans.
  • The vehicle must have proof of the annual inspection.
In short whenever you are dealing with a larger commercial truck or van, look carefully because there are a number of State of Georgia regulations that the employer has to comply with.

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