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What Happens When a Trucking Company Commits FMCSA Violations?

What happens when a trucking company commits FMCSA violations?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for ensuring the safety of our country’s trucking industry.

This agency sets the current safety standards and enforces regulations related to commercial motor vehicles. Its regulations cover everything from overseeing the inspection and maintenance of commercial vehicles to monitoring driver behavior and regulating hours of service.

Even with these rules and regulations, some trucking companies may mentally or inadvertently violate them. What happens when a trucking company commits FMCSA violations? Since everyone’s safety is at risk, the FMCSA has stringent penalties and consequences for those who don’t want to play by the rules.

At The Solomon Law Group, we have seen the outcomes of devastating trucks in South Carolina. Without these regulations, hundreds, if not thousands, more accidents would occur on our roads.

Common FMCSA Penalties

From unlicensed drivers to broken equipment, there are various types of FMCSA violations that a trucking company could receive, including:

  • Not having required operable lamps
  • Brakes out of adjustment
  • Operating a CMV without proof of a periodic inspection
  • Driver does not have a valid operator’s license for the CMV being operated
  • Driver lacking physical qualifications
  • False report of driver’s Record of Duty status
  • Driving a CMV while CDL is suspended

The company will often have to pay a fine, and compliance, safety, and accountability points (CSA Points) are added to its record, which ranges from 1 to 10, depending on the severity.

Sometimes, the FMCSA will conduct an audit or investigation into the company. During this time, the company can provide evidence that it did not commit any violations. If it is sufficient, then there are no consequences. However, if there is evidence of safety violations and they are not corrected within an accepted time frame, the FMCSA will order the company’s vehicles to be out-of-service until the issue is remedied.

Consequences of Violations

If a trucking company violates the FMCSA’s regulations, it might face everything from financial penalties to criminal charges.

Financial Penalties

FMCSA violations can result in substantial financial penalties and fines, and they are determined through the Uniform Fine Assessment calculations. For example, truck drivers must adhere to strict Hours of Service (HOS) rules to prevent fatigue-related accidents. If there are any violations, that can lead to fines ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Also, overloaded trucks pose a danger to road safety. There are strict rules about the weight of these vehicles and their cargo. Trucking companies violating weight limits will need to pay fines based on excess weight.

All trucks traveling on the road need to be safe. If a trucking company fails to address any problems or doesn’t properly maintain the vehicles, those violations can lead to them having fines imposed. Even inaccurate or falsified recordkeeping can also lead to penalties and other consequences.

Fines from the FMCSA are not the only issues for trucking companies that violate the rules. They may also have problems getting insurance for their vehicle. Insurance providers assess risk factors, and companies with a track record of violations are considered high-risk. When those insurance premiums soar, it can be another financial burden for a trucking company.

Civil Litigation

When trucking companies violate FMCSA regulations, they risk the safety of other drivers. If an accident occurs due to these violations, victims can seek compensation for their injuries and damages.

When there is proof of FMCSA violations, negligence can be established on the part of the trucking company. And for those victims injured in accidents caused by non-compliance, they can hold the trucking company liable for all damages, such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage

Most of the time, these trucking companies will try to settle out of court since there are violations on their records. However, some may try to fight the legal claims. If the trucking company refuses to settle or the parties cannot agree, the case may go to trial.

Criminal Charges

In extreme cases, FMCSA violations can lead to criminal charges. If negligence results in fatalities or severe injuries, prosecutors may pursue criminal prosecution.

For example, criminal charges may apply if a trucking company’s violation of safety regulations directly leads to a fatal accident. Depending on intent, recklessness, and the number of fatalities, prosecutors may pursue charges of negligent homicide or vehicular manslaughter against the owners of the company.

Another criminal charge that a trucking company may face is reckless endangerment. When a company’s actions endanger the lives of others, that is a blatant disregard for safety. One example is when a company knowingly allows drivers with a history of DUI to operate commercial vehicles or fails to address maintenance issues.

If a company attempts to cover up FMCSA violations or obstruct investigations, it may face an obstruction of justice charge. Destroying evidence, intimidating witnesses, or providing false information can all lead to criminal liability. Falsifying records, certifications, or safety documentation constitutes fraud, which is a criminal offense.

Reputation Damage

A trucking company’s reputation is undeniably one of the most important factors determining its success. However, when a company is found to have committed FMCSA violations, it can severely tarnish its reputation.

The negative publicity that arises from these violations can impact how clients, partners, and the public perceive the company. The public is more conscious than ever before about safety concerns. Negative publicity surrounding the safety record can make it extremely difficult for the company to keep its clients.

Compliance with FMCSA regulations is not optional. All trucking companies must ensure they have safe vehicles and drivers on the road.

If you’ve been involved in an accident due to FMCSA violations, consulting with a lawyer who represents truck accident victims in Columbia, SC can help you understand your legal options.

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