There are commercial vehicles present on most major roadways in Pennsylvania on any given day. The people operating those semi-trucks generally have more training than the average driver and are also subject to far stricter rules. After all, when semi-trucks cause collisions, the consequences for those in smaller vehicles can be extreme. Therefore, those operating commercial vehicles are subject to stricter controls established at the federal level to reduce crash risk and allow for consistent enforcement. Ideally, if every commercial driver complied with traffic safety rules, the number of collisions caused by 18-wheelers would be far lower.
Crash victims familiar with the special rules for semi-trucks may have an easier time identifying when rule-breaking has contributed to a major collision, which may impact their options for seeking compensation. The following are some of the special rules established for semi-truck drivers.
Lower alcohol limits
The average driver over the age of 21 in Pennsylvania can get arrested for impaired driving if they appear impaired at the wheel or if chemical breath testing shows that their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over 0.08%. Someone stopped while operating a commercial vehicle will be subject to a much lower BAC limit. Police officers can arrest a semi-truck driver for a BAC of 0.04%. They may not demonstrate any visible signs of impairment at that point despite being over the legal limit. Any impaired driving offense could cost someone their eligibility to drive a semi-truck.
Federal no-text rules
The statutes about distracted driving, specifically the manual use of a mobile device while in control of a vehicle, are different in every state. Although most states have statutes prohibiting the use of handheld devices while driving, not all do. Confusion abounds because of the inconsistent statutes from state to state. Commercial drivers cannot claim confusion or ignorance if they get pulled over by a police officer for using a phone manually while driving. The federal no-text rule explicitly prohibits texting or even manually dialing a phone while operating a semi-truck.
Hours of Service rules
People can theoretically drive for 24 hours straight in their own vehicles. Even though research shows that those who have gone that long without sleep may be a danger to themselves and others on the road, there are technically no rules explicitly prohibiting fatigue at the wheel for the average motorist. However, those who are in control of a semi-truck or other commercial vehicle are subject to strict limitations on how long they can drive and how much time they must have to rest between shifts.
Despite the federal rules intended to curtail semi-truck collisions, drivers and the companies that employ them often bend or break those rules for the sake of pursuing profit. Seeking legal guidance to better understand the rules that govern commercial vehicles may benefit those who need to pursue compensation after a crash caused by one.