Per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), several factors go into determining what is considered a DOT vehicle, including:
- Vehicle size
- Cargo type
- Where the vehicle travels
- Where the company is based
Requirements for a DOT Vehicle
The FMCSA regulates all commercial vehicles and sees that they are following federal guidelines and regulations. In addition to this, the FMCSA also ensures that all drivers of commercial vehicles are properly trained and certified to operate a DOT vehicle.
The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle is a key factor that determines whether or not it is a DOT vehicle. As the FMCSA points out, a vehicle must be registered as a commercial vehicle if it has a GVWR of or over 10,001 pounds.
The number of passengers that a vehicle is designed to carry may also determine whether or not a vehicle is a DOT vehicle. The FMCSA mandates that:
- Any vehicle designed to transport eight or more paying passengers must be registered
- Any vehicle designed to transport 15 or more non-paying passengers must be registered
- The above limits include the vehicle’s driver
Vehicles designed to transport hazardous materials must be registered.
Where the Vehicle Travels
If the vehicle will be traveling through more than one state or outside of the United States, it must be registered. This is true even if the vehicle only passes through another state or country without stopping.
Where the Company is Based
Most, but not all, states require vehicles to be registered under the circumstances described above. If the company that owns the vehicle is based in one of the following states, then they do not have any state registration requirements but may still be subject to federal requirements.
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
Responsibilities of DOT Vehicle Drivers
While there are multiple federal regulations to take into account regarding a DOT vehicle, the drivers of DOT vehicles must also meet specific requirements. For example, eCFR § 391.11 states that a commercial vehicle driver:
- Must be qualified to drive their vehicle
- Must have a commercial vehicle license
- Must be over 21
- Must complete a road test
Accidents with Commercial Vehicles
Even though commercial vehicle drivers have to obey federal regulations and obtain special licenses, these drivers are still capable of causing accidents on the road. Just like any driver, a negligent commercial vehicle operator who causes an accident may be liable for the damages that victims suffer.
Driver negligence in a commercial vehicle accident may be due to:
- A violation of traffic laws, such as an illegal lane change, running a stop sign, failure to yield, speeding, etc.
- Drunk or intoxicated driving (blood alcohol concentration [BAC] limits for commercial vehicle drivers may be lower than the standard 0.08% BAC, per the FMCSA)
- Drowsy driving, which may include violations of the FMCSA’s hours of service limits
- Distracted driving, which may include cell phone use, eating, or handling a navigating or radio device while driving
Other Liable Parties
In some cases, an accident caused by a negligent commercial vehicle driver while on the job will become the responsibility of their employer. This may be due to:
- A failure to adequately service and maintain their vehicles
- Incorrectly loading or securing cargo
- Not hiring licensed drivers or training them adequately
- Not hiring enough drivers, thus putting more pressure and excessive workloads on existing employees
Depending on the circumstances of the accident, you may even be able to sue a maintenance crew or a municipality.
Getting Legal Help for a Commercial Vehicle Accident Case
An attorney from our firm may be able to handle your commercial vehicle accident case on your behalf. This gives you the chance to concentrate on recovering from your injuries. Our team may be able to:
- Inform you of your options and help you make intelligent decisions
- Investigate the accident and identify the liable party
- Build a case against them with evidence of their liability from sources including eyewitnesses, surveillance footage, and accident reports
- Collect evidence of the value of your damages, including paystubs and bills
- Handle all communications, deadlines, and paperwork on your behalf
- Handle settlement negotiations
- Take your case to trial
In addition, our firm takes personal injury cases on a contingency-fee basis with no up-front payments required. You are not obligated to pay us attorney’s fees in this arrangement unless and until you recover compensation via a court award or settlement offer.
Damages in a Commercial Vehicle Accident Case
If your case succeeds, you may be able to recover compensation for applicable for damages such as:
- Past, current, and future accident-related medical care
- Lost wages or benefits
- Reduced earning capability
- Property damages
- Pain and suffering
- Partial or total disability, including intellectual disability caused by a traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Disfigurement caused by scar tissue
- Lost independence or quality of life
The damages you can collect may look different if you are filing a wrongful death case on behalf of a loved one instead of a personal injury case. Our firm would like to help, no matter your circumstances.
Contact Morelli Law Firm Today
If you were involved in a collision with the driver of what is considered a DOT vehicle, Morelli Law Firm may be able to help. We understand the unique federal laws and guidelines that pertain to commercial vehicles and their operators. We are comfortable going up against defendants of any size, from individual drivers to the major corporations that employ them. Call us today at (212) 751-9800 for a free case review.