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    What Laws Apply if You are Hit by a Company Truck in Georgia?

    Posted on - Tuesday, July 6, 2021 under Truck Accidents

    If you were hit by a company van or truck in Georgia, careful diligence is required to determine whether the vehicle is subject to key commercial vehicle regulations.  It is common for inexperienced attorneys to mistakenly assume the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations do not apply to companies that solely operate intrastate or to drivers that do not hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

    In fact, Georgia law places strict commercial regulations on any vehicle that both weighs over 10,000 pounds and is used within state lines for commercial purposes.  These regulations apply even if the driver does not hold a CDL.  Correspondingly, Georgia’s Department of Public Safety adopted several of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.  

    When Do “The Federal Safety Rules” Apply in Georgia?

    Georgia applies the Federal Safety Rules to commercial vehicles that weigh over 10,000 pounds and are used in commerce. Generally, there are two weight classes of vehicles. First, vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds but less than 14,000 pounds like a Dodge 3500, a Ford E-350, or a GMC Sierra 3500.  Alternatively, vehicles weighing 14,000 to 18,000 pounds like a Dodge 4500 or 5500; a Ford E-450 or F550; or a GMC 4500 or 5500. Drivers of either weight class of a commercial vehicle:

    1. Are forbidden from using radar detectors;
    2. Must conduct pre- and post-trip safety inspections on the vehicles;
    3. Must do annual safety inspections of the vehicle;
    4. Must take an annual DOT physical exam (Keep an eye out for drivers on duty who have serious medical issues like an insulin dependence for example); and
    5. Must maintain time records and not stay on duty beyond the Hours of Service limitations.

    Hours of Service Limitations

    Drivers with an operational radius over 150 miles are considered long-haul or “over-the-road” drivers and are subject to the Federal Hours of Service Regulations. Similarly, strict rules restrict short-haul drivers from driving for over 11 hours maximum and only after 10 hours being off duty.  Additionally, employers are required to maintain accurate time records for 6 months and revisit them on a rolling basis.  These records may make or break a case. Take for example a case where a beverage company driver testified that he habitually worked more than 10 hours per day without a break.  He also testified that at the time of the subject wreck, he was on duty for 12 hours.  Since testimony may not always result in a blatant admission, it is essential to send spoliation letters and request the required time records are produced during discovery.  In the event an employer fails to retain time records, the presumption can be made that the records support that the driver was overly fatigued.

    Vehicles that operate across state lines and weighing over 10,000 pounds must adhere to separate federal regulations including:

    • Drivers must undergo a valid US DOT physical exam.
    • Drivers must follow the regular Hours of Service requirements.
    • Drivers must display the DOT number on the side of the vans.
    • Drivers must have proof of the vehicle’s annual inspection.

    In sum, there are several Georgia regulations an employer must comply with when operating with a larger commercial truck or van.  Our Metro Atlanta and West Georgia attorneys can answer your questions about tractor-trailer wrecks.