Need to prove applicability of trucking rules in litigation
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations apply to commercial motor vehicles, which are defined as any self-propelled or towed motor vehicle used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property when the vehicle: (1) has a gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more, whichever is greater; or (2) is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers, including the driver, for compensation; or (3) is designed or used to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, whether or not it is used to transport passengers for compensation; or (4) is used in transporting material classified as hazardous. “Interstate commerce” is defined as trade, traffic or transportation across a State line, including international boundaries, or wholly within one State as part of a through movement that originates or terminates in another State or country. “Intrastate commerce” is any trade, traffic or transportation in any State that is not described in the term “interstate commerce.” 49 C.F.R. § 390.3.
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a “SuperLawyer” in Atlanta Magazine and one of the “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks).
Several types of freight and passenger operations are specifically excepted from applicability of the FMCSR, though some would be subject to other safety rules not discussed here. The list of specific exemptions appears to reflect highly effective industry lobbying. For example, there are exceptions for “casual, occasional, and reciprocal transportation of passengers by motor vehicle in interstate or foreign commerce for compensation,” (49 C.F.R. § 372. 101), school buses (49 C.F.R. § 372. 103), agricultural cooperative associations (49 C.F.R. § 372.107, 372.109, 372.111), and motor vehicles used in carrying a long list of agricultural, livestock, fishing and forestry products (49 U.S.C. 13506(a)(6), 49 C.F.R. § 372. 115).
There are cases in which courts refused to consider the FMCSR because the plaintiffs failed to prove applicability of the FMCSR. For example, in the unreported 2003 Ohio case of Pleimann v. Coots (Not Reported in N.E.2d, 2003 WL 164815 (Ohio App. 2 Dist.,2003). See also, Howard v. Ramirez, 2003 WL 21214139 (Cal.App. 2 Dist., 2003)(expert allowed to testify about standard of care for truck driving and state regulations, but not FMCSR since not in interstate commerce)), the plaintiff claimed that the wreck was proximately caused by the trucker’s violation of 49 C.F.R. § 392.22(b), which requires drivers of commercial vehicles to place warning devices on the highway as soon as practicable, and in any event, within ten minutes, if commercial motor vehicles are stopped on the traveled portion or shoulder of a highway for any cause. However, the record in that case did not include evidence of whether the truck was operating in interstate or intrastate commerce. In Frohardt v. Bassett, 788 N.E.2d 462 (Ind.App.,2003),an Indiana court held that a rented truck not a “commercial motor vehicle” governed by FMCSR. Without such proof of applicability, courts may properly exclude consideration of the FMCSR.
But states have broadly adopted the FMCSR as state motor carrier rules. Where that is proven in a case, it is appropriate in a case arising out of intrastate operations to instruct the jury on the FMCSR as adopted by the state. North American Van Lines, Inc. v. Emmons, 50 S.W.3d 103(Tx. App. -Beaumont, 2001).