Commercial Trucking Laws in Georgia
There are many types of commercial motor vehicles on Georgia’s roads, and they are an important component of Georgia’s economy. Because of the sheer weight and size of commercial vehicles, being in an accident with one can be devastating. That’s why the Federal and Georgia governments have enacted certain rules and regulations regarding interstate and intrastate trucking.
GEORGIA AND FMCSA
All interstate trucking is governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) who has strict rules for commercial motor vehicle operators that involve duty hours, breaks, truck maintenance, and keeping accurate logs. Georgia enacts these laws when interstate trucks are within the state lines.
When trucks only travel within the state, i.e. intrastate, they must obey Georgia’s laws and statutes.
GEORGIA DEFINITION OF A COMMERCIAL MOTOR VEHICLE (CMV)
The definition of a commercial vehicle in Georgia that may apply to you if you operate a CMV in Georgia is:
1. A commercial vehicle with a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight (GVWR) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,0001 or more pounds
2. A vehicle designed or used to carry more than 8 passengers, including the driver, for compensation
3. A vehicle designed to use or transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver if not for compensation
4. A vehicle used to transport hazardous materials in a quantify requiring placards.
KINDS OF GEORGIA INTRASTATE COMMERCIAL VEHICLES
When most of us think about commercial trucks, we envision a semi-truck. However, there are different kinds of commercial vehicles that are subject to Georgia law and have specific rules that govern their transport. They include:
1. Fire trucks
2. School buses
3. Construction vehicles
4. Logging vehicles
5. Municipal vehicles including garbage trucks
GEORGIA LAW AND COMMERCIAL VEHICLES
In Georgia, there are strict commercial regulations on any vehicle that is being used for commercial purposes and weighing over 10,000 pounds, regardless of whether or not the driver has a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or not.
The Georgia Department of Public Safety decided to apply many of the FMCSA regulations that apply to commercial vehicles. The Georgia rules apply if:
1. A commercial vehicle weighs over 10,000 pounds and is being used in commerce.
There are also additional regulations that apply to all commercial truck drivers, even if they are short haul drivers.
1. The driver must take an annual Department of Transportation (DOT) physical examination.
2. The drivers may not use radar detectors
3. They must do pre and post trip safety inspections of their commercial vehicles
4. They must conduct annual safety inspections of the commercial vehicles
5. The drivers cannot stay on duty beyond the hours of service limitations and they must have time records.
GEORGIA COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S LICENSES (CDL)
A commercial driver’s license is required if:
1. The commercial vehicle has a GCWR or gross combination weight of 26.001 pounds whichever is greater, inclusive of a towed unit with a GVWR of 10,001 pounds or more; or
2. The commercial vehicle has a GVWR or gross vehicle weight of 26,001 or more pound, whichever is greater; or
3. The commercial vehicle is designed to carry more than 16 passengers, including the driver; or
4. The commercial vehicle is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity that requires placards.
HOURS OF SERVICE
Long haul commercial vehicle drivers with an operational radius of over 150 miles are subject to the Federal Hours of Service Regulations. However, there are strict rules in Georgia regarding short haul drivers as well as it pertains to hours of service. They are:
Short haul drivers in Georgia can drive for a maximum of 11 hours after 10 hours off duty. The employer of the driver must maintain accurate time records for 6 months looking back on a rolling basis. If the employer fails to keep accurate time records, it will be presumed that the records that support a driver being overly tired can be made.
Under the Federal Hours of Service Regulations, drivers are limited to 60-70 hours of duty in a period of seven or eight days.
If the commercial vehicle weighs over 10,000 pounds, including cargo and it crosses state lines, then separate Federal regulations take effect. They are:
1. The driver must have a valid USDOT physical exam
2. The driver is subject to the regular Hours of Service requirements
3. The DOT number must be displayed on the side of the vehicles
4. The commercial vehicle must have proof of the annual inspection.
5. Transports hazardous materials that require placards
COMMERCIAL VEHICLE INSPECTIONS IN GEORGIA
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, (FMCSR) that Georgia uses as a guideline states that periodic inspections of commercial motor vehicles must be performed to ensure that they can be safely operated. During the inspection the components that must be inspected include:
1. Service Brakes
2. Windshield Wipers
3. Steering Columns
4. Wheels and Rims
6. Windshield Glazing
8. Lights and Reflectors
9. Safety Devices
10. Vacuum Systems
In addition, commercial drivers are required to complete daily inspection reports when they are finished driving for the day. The report must identify the specific vehicle and any problems that arose during the inspection. Motor carriers must certify that any and all defects and deficiencies have been properly repaired.
ALCOHOL AND DRUG TESTING
In 1991, Congress passed the Omnibus Transportation Employee Testing Act which requires all Department of Transportation agencies, (DOT) including the DOT in Georgia to implement testing rules for employees with safety-sensitive duties.
Trucking companies must test any driver who operates a commercial vehicle. The requirements for testing is the same whether the employee works full-time or part-time. The DOT will test for the following drugs:
1. Phencyclidine (PCP)
5. Methamphetamines and amphetamines
6. Drivers with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 or higher.
Under FMCSA rules, commercial trucking companies must perform drug tests anytime the following occurs:
1. Before a new employee can operate a commercial motor vehicle
2. After an accident that causes a fatality
3. After an accident that caused an injury that required medical treatment away from the scene of the accident, but only if the driver of the commercial vehicle was issued a citation
4. After an accident that caused disabling damage to a motor vehicle, but only if the driver of the commercial vehicle was issued a citation.
5. If there is reasonable suspicion that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
6. At random intervals throughout the year
7. Before a driver that previously tested positive returns to duty.
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION MEDICAL EXAMINATIONS
DOT exams are designed to identify physical and/or psychological problems that can affect the driver’s ability to operate a commercial vehicle safely. Before the exam, the driver should provide a complete health history to the examiner. DOT examiners should ask about the following:
1. Head and/or brain injuries
2. Eye problems
4. Heart disease
6. Kidney disease
7. Respiratory problems
8. High blood pressure
9. Heart Attacks
The above list isn’t inclusive, and once the examination is completed, the DOT examiner will fill out a medical certificate which should indicate whether or not the driver qualifies for a two-year certificate, a certificate with periodic monitoring required, or does not meet the standards for a DOT medical certificate.
GEORGIA INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS FOR INTRASTATE DRIVERS
In Georgia, truck drivers must carry a minimum amount of insurance coverage that will provide compensation in case of an accident.
The minimum policy limits include $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. Because the minimum amount of required insurance coverage is rarely enough to cover the injuries that are generally associated with Georgia trucking accidents, most truckers carry up to $1 million in liability protection coverage.
LIABILITY IN GEORGIA COMMERCIAL TRUCKING ACCIDENTS
Federal laws dictate that the employers and operators of commercial vehicles are liable for their actions if there’s an accident. The Official Code of Georgia also offers additional remedies if you’re involved in a commercial vehicle accident.
The Official Code of Georgia allows victims to pursue legal claims against the commercial vehicle operator’s insurance company and the motor carrier’s insurance. This is to assist in paying the high costs that are generally associated with a serious accident involving a commercial vehicle.
In the event of a Georgia commercial truck accident, there may be several responsible parties that share in the liability. For example, if a commercial vehicle driver’s negligence was a contributing factor in the accident, the driver and/or their employer may be liable for damages.
However, if there was improper maintenance or loading that may have contributed to the accident, a third party may also share fault. In Georgia, you may be able to pursue a claim against separate parties so that you receive full and fair compensation for your injuries.
Commercial trucking regulations are meant to protect Georgia drivers and commercial truck operators. Without them, if you are injured in a commercial vehicle accident in Georgia, you would be left without recourse in the event of an accident.