Maryland Commercial Trucking Rules/Regulations - Motor Carrier Inspections

Whether a commercial trucking accident involves other vehicles is a matter of bad luck and coincidence; however, the fact remains that in dense traffic on Maryland’s interstates and beltways, the close proximity of massive 18-wheelers and smaller passenger cars can spell disaster if and when there is a collision. The weight disparity between a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and a typical family sedan or minivan can easily mean a 10- to 15-times greater weight difference, sometimes even more.

Any motorist who has shared the road with these huge vehicles knows the uneasy feeling that can come over the occupants of a passenger vehicle when bad weather or a sudden traffic situation causes a trucker to swerve or make an emergency maneuver directly ahead. As Baltimore personal injury attorneys, the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, has dedicated itself to helping the victims of commercial trucking wrecks, as well as other traffic-related injury accidents.

With years of training and courtroom experience representing the interests of people who have been seriously hurt in roadway collisions by negligent drivers, we understand the pain and suffering that can come with such violent automobile and trucking crashes. Whether one lives or works in the Gaithersburg, Rockville or Washington, D.C., area, the conditions that can lead to a bad commercial vehicle accident can crop up quite frequently, especially in densely-populated urban areas.

Unlike roadway collisions that involve just one or two cars, the size of an 18-wheeler big rig raises the ante for everyone in the vicinity of that large truck. A single 18-wheeler is easily three- to four-times longer than most passenger cars. With combined weights of 50,000 to 80,000 pounds, a fully loaded CMV is akin to a rolling house, but inherently less stable. When an accident situation arises, the truck driver may not be able to maintain control of his rig. Depending on the circumstances, a jackknife event could occur happen, placing not only the truck driver and his vehicle in jeopardy, but many of the nearby vehicles as well.

Needless to say, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen knows that the sudden nature of these kinds of truck-related incidents can catch drivers unprepared; at beltway speeds, or while traveling in dense traffic on the interstate, a crash can not only happen quickly, but the results can be catastrophic for those involved. This is why it is so important for commercial trucks to be maintained at the highest level of mechanical safety possible. Pre-trip checks by drivers and regular motor carrier inspections are a couple ways in which trucking safety can be furthered.

Unfortunately, some truck drivers and trucking company owners feel that pre-trip inspections are not worth the hassle. However, this is a short-sighted attitude, for drivers in particular, but also for fleet owners. As commercial trucking injury specialists, we fully understand the importance of vehicle inspections as part of the overall safe operation of any commercial trucking fleet. Those truck drivers who do not believe that it is in their best interest to make sure that their rigs are safe are forgetting their legal responsibility.

Although truckers and the people who employ them are duty bound to assure that their trucks are in safe working order, it is actually the driver who has the ultimately responsible for making certain his rig is safe. In fact, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), it is the driver’s legal responsibility to perform pre- and post-trip inspections on his or her vehicle.

Semi tractor-trailers are robust machines, that is certain; however, they also carry tens of thousands of pounds of goods over all manner of roads for days at a time, covering thousands of miles a week. Mechanical wear is inevitable for any interstate truck, which means that nothing should be taken for granted as the miles add up on the odometer. Worn, broken, or poorly maintained or adjusted mechanical parts can easily contribute to a driver’s loss of control at the wrong moment on a busy highway. And that’s when people get hurt or killed.

Obvious to the average person is the need for truckers to follow the rules and regulations laid down by federal and state law. When a driver shirks his responsibilities, he shifts the burden of risk to the public with whom he shares the roadways. As Maryland person injury attorneys, we know that there are multiple layers of responsibility that must be examined when preparing an injury claim following a trucking accident.

According to commercial vehicle regulations, Part 396 covers inspection of repair and maintenance. As a part of these rules, the law states that motor carriers shall systematically inspect, repair and maintain all vehicles subject to their control. Maryland’s Preventive Maintenance (PM) Program is part of the overall effort to keep our roadways as safe as possible for everyone. Furthermore, as specified in FMCSR, Part 393 states that parts or components that may affect the safety of a vehicle -- including the vehicle’s frame and assemblies; suspension systems; axle and attaching parts; wheels and rims; and steering system -- must be in safe and proper operating condition.

The Maryland Motor Carrier Safety Program (MMCSP) began in 1985, after which the number and frequency of CMV safety inspections -- including 18-wheelers, their drivers and the cargo they haul -- increased from just under 5,000 inspections in 1986 to nearly 100,000 in 2010. These motor carrier inspections are performed by enforcing agencies that participate in the MMCSP who have the authority to place a non-complying vehicle in “Out-of-Service” (OOS) status based on criteria specified by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA).

Similarly, the Maryland State Police, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division; as well as the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, Commercial Vehicle Safety Unit conduct truck size and weight enforcement at the various Truck Weigh and Inspection Stations (TWIS) throughout the state. All of these governmental enforcement activities are designed to ensure that truckers and commercial fleet owners maintain their vehicles to the standard required by law. However, they cannot catch every violation and the potential for an unsafe tractor-trailer operating on Maryland roadways is always there.

It is for this reason that the staff at Lebowitz & Mzhen advises caution when passing or traveling near any large commercial vehicle. Even if the truck has been inspected and the driver is a conscientious individual, accidents can still happen. Our attorneys understand how stressful it can be for victims of a serious traffic wreck when facing mounting medical bills. In addition to their injuries, victims must consider the legal aspects of a personal injury claim, which is where a qualified auto accident lawyer can help.

If you or someone you care about has been hurt in a commercial trucking accident, we recommend that you consult an experienced trucking injury lawyer with years handling Maryland personal injury lawsuits. Our auto and truck accident attorneys are ready, willing and able to assist you with your case. Please contact us, so that we can explain your right to compensation under the law, and so that you can be better informed about your legal options. Our toll-free office number is (800) 654-1949; or you may contact Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen by email to set up a free, no-obligation consultation.