CA and Federal Trucking Regulations

Our Knowledgeable California Personal Injury Lawyers Explain CA and Federal Trucking Laws That May Affect Your Semi-Truck Accident Claim  

Accidents with semi-trucks or other large commercial vehicles can have life-altering consequences. The attorneys at Case Barnett Law understand the catastrophic nature of these accidents and have represented clients who suffered tragic injuries as a result of a negligent truck driver or trucking company.

When you need legal counsel to help recover fair compensation for damages, the skilled lawyers at Case Barnett Law can help. We will listen to your story, and if we take your case, we will bring our experience, compassion, and understanding of trucking regulations to fully represent you. Schedule a free initial consultation to learn how our dedicated California legal team can assist you. 

Transportation officials have established strict and uncompromising laws for semi-trucks and other large commercial vehicles at both the federal and state levels. These laws are in place to help reduce the threat these trucks pose to other vehicles on the road. Because of the enormous size and weight of these trucks, they can cause severe damage and life-changing injuries if they crash with another vehicle. The attorneys at Case Barnett Law discuss California and federal laws meant to help minimize semi-truck accidents. 

Truckers Driving in California Must Follow These Rules

California law requires truckers driving in the Golden State to adhere to a variety of laws that may be a bit different from federal laws. The following state laws are in place to help minimize accidents and help ensure California road safety:

General Rules for California Truckers

  • California enforces a rule that is somewhat different from federal regulations called an 80-Hour 8-Day Rule. Under this rule, truckers are not allowed to drive more than 80 hours in an eight-day consecutive period. 
  • After completing an eight-day work schedule, truckers must take 10 hours off before beginning a new work period. 
  • California truckers must adhere to meal and rest break rules that have been established by the state. These breaks allow truckers to rest, eat, and re-focus so they can stay alert. 
  • California law requires that there be a record of these state-mandated breaks. This record shows the number of meals and breaks and the time they occurred. 

California Trucking Weight Limits 

A critical government regulation for the trucking industry is weight limits. The vehicle code in the Golden State closely follows federal law. No vehicle can exceed 80,000 pounds, with no more than 20,000 allowable for any single axle. Safety is the number one reason for these weight limits, and they were established to:

  • Prevent damage to California roads over time. If the trucks that travel California roads and highways are heavier than the limit, overpasses, bridges, and other weak areas can be compromised. 
  • Help ensure the safety of other vehicles. A semi-truck needs additional time to stop and can be harder to control if traveling downhill. It is also more difficult to maneuver than a car. The heavier the truck, the more likely it is to cause catastrophic injuries in an accident.  

New California Trucking Compliance Requirement: Electronic Logging Device

Beginning January 1, 2024, all motor carriers in California were required to use an electronic logging device (ELD) to record a trucker’s record of duty status. California follows the ELD mandate set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Instead of tracking their hours in a logbook, truckers must now track them using an ELD. 

The FMCSA’s ELD mandate to record trucking data with an ELD is intended to:

  • Help create a safer work environment for truckers
  • Make it easier and faster to track, manage, and share records data accurately—establishing better communication between law enforcement authorities, truckers, and fleet managers
  • Replace outdated electronic equipment or old ELD models with advanced ELD solutions

ELD Violations That Can Affect Your California Semi-Truck Accident Claim

Many semi-truck accidents happen because truckers operate their vehicles while drowsy or exhausted after driving beyond the allowed work hours. Before ELDs, truckers recorded their driving hours manually in a logbook, and many were dishonest in recording this data. They violated federal regulations for hours of service (HOS) by falsifying the hours they drove so they could meet excessive and impossible delivery deadlines. Because this data is so important to a truck accident claim, it’s critical that it be honest and complete. Now, it will be easier to prove trucker negligence for a personal injury claim because the evidence needed for a claim will be logged in the ELD. 

What the ELD Data Can Tell You

ELDs provide law enforcement, victims, insurance companies, and personal injury attorneys with tamper-proof data for a personal injury truck accident claim. These ELDs can provide some important evidence, including the following:

  • An ELD can show if a trucker has exceeded the allowed HOS. Your lawyer may use location data and the travel route to help prove that the driver was not only in violation of the ELD mandate but may have been driving fatigued or drowsy. 
  • An ELD can help reveal if any sudden movement or action on the part of the driver changed the trajectory or direction of the truck and helped cause the accident. ELDs can record unsafe driving behaviors such as speeding, swerving, or braking hard.
  • An ELD can record when the truck is idling. This can help determine if the trucker adhered to all required off-duty periods. 

It’s very important to collect the data from the ELD right away so your truck injury lawyer can help link any evidence to drowsy or fatigued driving. In doing so, they can help determine fault and negligence.  

Possible ELD Violations

Truck drivers and truck companies can be fined if they violate the new ELD mandate, and these violations can have an impact on your accident claim. California truck drivers are considered to be non-compliant with the new mandate and can be penalized if:

  • Their vehicle does not have an ELD but is required to have one.
  • The ELD is not visible from outside the vehicle.
  • The truck being driven has operated with a malfunctioning or non-functioning ELD for over eight days.
  • The driver did notify the trucking company in writing that the ELD had malfunctioned or was non-functioning.
  • The trucker has no knowledge of how to transfer the ELD data to the FMCSA web service—California will only accept this data transmission method. 
  • The trucker could not or would not validate that the data collected by the ELD was accurate.