Every year, $497 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in Virginia, and 78 percent of those goods are carried by truck. An estimated 3.4 million trucks traveled on I-81 in 2008; by 2035, that interstate highway will handle more than 7 million trucks. As you can see from these stats, commercial drivers are essential to our nation’s economy, transporting billions of dollars worth of goods annually.
These drivers also have an enormous responsibility. Large truck accidents are often catastrophic, and passenger vehicles often don’t stand a chance against tractor-trailers during a collision. There were more than 2,500 large truck accidents in Virginia in 2020. The year prior, more than 100 large trucks were involved in fatal Virginia accidents.
Due to the heightened responsibility of truck drivers, federal law requires heightened qualifications for drivers to obtain a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) to legally drive a commercial truck.
Federal Trucking Regulations
Trucking companies must maintain qualification files for their drivers per regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Any driver who owns a commercial vehicle and doesn’t work for a trucking company must also abide by these rules. The agency’s extensive requirements checklist is intended to keep unsafe drivers off the road. The FMCSA requires employers to maintain the following documents in a truck driver’s qualification file when they are hired:
- A signed application for employment by the driver
- A Road Test Certificate to confirm a driver’s ability to control a truck
- An inquiry into the driver’s previous employment for the past three years
- A request for the driver’s safety performance history
- An inquiry to the state DMV for a driver’s past 3-year driving record
- Inquiry into driver’s past three years of drug and alcohol tests or refusals
Once a commercial driver is hired, the requirements for the employer do not stop. During the course of employment, the employer must continue to update their driver’s qualification file in the following matter:
- Annually request an updated copy of driver’s driving record from the state DMV
- Confirmation in a file that the employer has reviewed the updated driving record
- Report all convicted violations of motor vehicle traffic laws every 12 months
- Obtain a medical examiner’s certificate that the driver has completed a physical exam once every 24 months
Virginia Commercial Driver Disqualification Rules
The state also regulates commercial drivers. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles has severe consequences for commercial drivers convicted of major motor violations. The department will suspend a commercial license if a driver operates a commercial motor vehicle while under the influence with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.04 or higher, which is lower than the DUI limit for a non-commercial vehicle. Drivers will also face a one-year suspension if they refuse a blood or breath test, fail to stop at the scene of an accident that causes injury or death, use their commercial truck to commit a felony, or lie on their CDL license applications. If these violations happen while the driver is transporting hazardous materials, the department adds two years to the disqualification. Transporting illegal drugs on a commercial vehicle can result in a lifetime suspension.
Truck drivers can be disqualified from commercial driving even if they haven’t committed a crime. Some of the violations that the Commonwealth of Virginia considers serious include:
- Speeding 15 miles per hour or more
- Driving a commercial vehicle without a CDL
- Following too closely
- Improper lane change
- A traffic ticket after a fatal crash
- Reckless driving
- Texting while behind the wheel
If drivers receive two serious violations in three years, they’ll face a 60-day suspension. They’ll be disqualified for 120 days if they receive three or more. These regulations incentivize truck drivers to follow all traffic laws and to drive safely, as the alternative is a potential loss of their license.
The Aftermath of a Trucking Accident
These regulations are in place at the federal and state levels to ensure that the public can have confidence in the individuals driving commercial trucks across the country. Unfortunately, these regulations do not entirely prevent the thousands of trucking accidents that occur in Virginia. If you’ve been injured in a collision involving a truck or tractor-trailer, it is important to contact experienced personal injury attorneys that know these regulations and will be able to investigate if the employer has complied with all applicable rules.
At Curcio Law, we have represented many individuals injured in trucking collisions. If you or someone you know has been involved in a trucking collision, please call or text us at 703-836-3366 or contact us online for a free consultation.
Rakin Hamad joined Curcio Law as an associate in August 2018 after graduating from George Mason Law School. During law school, Rakin demonstrated his dedication to client advocacy and was a member of the trial advocacy association, the pro bono society, and the George Mason Law Review. His approach to the law mirrors the firm’s philosophy of treating each client with commitment, compassion and character. Contact Rakin at firstname.lastname@example.org.