Texas Truck Accident Laws, Regulations & Violations
Texas truck accident lawyers explain what injury victims need to know
Commercial truck drivers in Texas need to follow strict rules and regulations in order to operate an 18-wheeler, tractor-trailer, delivery truck or another large commercial vehicle. Even getting and maintaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) requires extensive training and testing.
Strict state and federal laws apply to Texas truck drivers since truck accidents can have devastating consequences. And if truck drivers violate these laws, they need to be held accountable for their actions.
The Texas truck accident lawyers at Tracey Fox & Walters have an in-depth understanding of the regulations that apply to CDL drivers. That’s because our attorneys have years of experience handling complex legal cases involving serious truck accidents in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.
Below, you can learn more about these state and federal truck laws and how they may apply to your truck accident. We also encourage you to contact our law firm as soon as possible to learn more about your legal options depending on the specific circumstances of your accident.
Texas CDL Guide
All drivers who operate a commercial motor vehicle in Texas are required to have a commercial driver’s license. The Texas Department of Public Safety created a 178-page-long guide for commercial truck drivers. Officially known as the “Texas Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook,” this CDL guide explains in great detail the different regulations, testing and inspection requirements.
The Texas CDL guide breaks down topics such as:
- Transporting cargo safely
- Hazardous materials
- Vehicle inspection test
There’s also a chapter specifically about special rules and regulations that apply to CDL drivers in Texas called “Special requirements for Texas Commercial Motor Vehicles.”
What special rules apply to Texas CDL drivers?
Texas has unique regulations that apply to commercial truck drivers in the state, including:
- Papers and permits Texas CDL drivers must have with them at all times on the road. This includes papers that “show the weight of the vehicle empty and how much it is registered to haul.”
- Equipment regulations that apply to flares, reflectors and hazard warning signal lights in the event that the truck breaks down and needs to stop alongside the road. Such regulations vary depending on the type of truck (truck-tractor, trailer 80” or more in overall width, pole trailer, etc.) and road type. Different road types include two-way roads, divided highways or roads in which a driver’s vision is obscured by a corner or a physical barrier (tree, building, etc.).
- Brake requirements for trucks based on the weight of the truck.
- Lighting requirements for farm tractors. They must have two headlamps and two red reflectors.
- Maximum allowed height for commercial trucks in Texas. The limit is 14 feet high from the ground to the top of a truck.
- Metal tires weighing more than 5,000 pounds cannot legally operate on a highway without a special permit.
- How trucks can transport loose materials such as sand, gravel or wood chips.
- Coasting down a hill with the clutch disengaged is prohibited at all times.
- Large trucks and trucks carrying explosives must stop at all railroad crossings in Texas.
- All trucks must be registered in the county of residence in Texas.
- Cargo securement regulations, including rules regarding tying down cargo on all flatbed trailers or trailers without sides.
- Reflective tape requirement for commercial trucks in Texas: All commercial trucks must have reflective tape at least 12 inches long visible on certain places on all trucks, including the upper right and upper left corners of the rear of each truck trailer and semitrailer.
These are just some of the regulations that apply to CDL drivers and commercial trucks in Texas. Many other state rules apply, some of which you can read more about below.
What are truck weight limits in Texas?
In general, weight limits for commercial trucks in Texas depend on axels. There’s also an overall maximum weight limit of 80,000 pounds. Depending on the number of axels a truck has, the following truck weight limits apply in Texas, according to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles:
- Single axle truck – 20,000 pounds
- Tandem axle truck – 34,000 pounds
- Triple axle truck – 42,000 pounds
- Quad axle truck – 50,000 pounds
What are the medical standards for driving a CMV in Texas?
In order to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in Texas, a driver with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) must meet the state’s medical standards. In particular, all CDL drivers must pass the state’s medical certification requirements, which includes:
- Undergoing a physical exam by a licensed medical professional approved by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
- Passing the vision exam in Texas.
What skills tests do truck drivers have to pass to get a CDL in Texas?
Along with the physical test, vision exam and other medical standards for driving a CMV in Texas, truck drivers who want to obtain a CDL must pass several skills tests:
- Basic vehicle control skills test – This test measures a truck driver’s ability to perform basic driving skills, including straight line backing, parallel parking on the driver’s side and parallel parking on the “conventional” passenger’s side.
- Driving test – A more thorough road test that tests a truck driver’s driving skills, given in the same type of truck that the driver plans to drive if they pass the driving test.
- Knowledge test – A multiple-choice written test that measures a driver’s knowledge of Texas’ commercial truck driving regulations as well as federal commercial truck driver rules and regulations.
- Pre-trip vehicle inspection test – CDL drivers need to be able to demonstrate that they know how to inspect their truck and make sure it’s safe to drive on the road.
What federal laws apply to commercial truck drivers?
Many of the laws that apply to truck drivers across the country can be found in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations. These federal laws are enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is the part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The federal rules and regulations in Title 49 cover a wide range, including:
- Hours of Service rules – These rules restrict how many hours a truck driver can work before they must take a mandatory break. Title 49, Part 395 of the Code of Federal Regulations contains these Hours of Service (HOS) rules.
- Truck Driver Log Book – Commercial truck drivers are required to keep a daily log documenting when they work, known as a “driver’s record of duty status.” These rules can be found in Title 49, Part 395.8.
- Cell Phone Policy – Commercial truck drivers nationwide cannot text while driving or use a hand-held mobile phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle. Title 49, Part 392.80 and Title 49, Part 392.82 contain these rules.
- Drug & alcohol testing – The FMCSA has strict rules for testing commercial truck drivers for alcohol or drugs. Drivers are subject to random tests at any time. Drivers with a CDL also have a lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit nationwide. These rules can be found in Title 49, Part 40.
- English language comprehension – Commercial truck drivers must be able to read and speak English at a sufficient level to talk with the general public and to be able to read highway traffic signs. These rules can be found in Title 49, Part 391.11.
In addition to Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, there are several other federal laws that apply to commercial truck drivers nationwide. These include:
- Sleep apnea regulations – Commercial truck drivers with sleep apnea may not be alert while they’re driving and could potentially cause a serious accident. As a result, a driver diagnosed with sleep apnea or any medical condition that could interfere with their ability to drive may not be considered medically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).
- Requirements for obtaining and maintaining a CDL – Drivers must meet certain criteria nationwide, including being at least 18 years to drive within the state (intrastate) and at least 21 years old to drive out of state (interstate).
What is a CDL pre-trip inspection checklist?
Commercial truck drivers need to regularly inspect their vehicle to make sure it’s in proper working order and safe to drive. Some of the items CDL drivers need to inspect before operating a CMV include:
- Brakes and air system
- Emergency equipment
- Truck’s fluids, including oil and coolant
- Truck belts and hoses
- Truck pumps and compressors
- Truck’s front suspension
- Steering mechanism
- Lights and reflectors
- Tires, wheels, and rims
- Windshield wipers
- Rearview mirrors
What are the penalties for CDL violations?
Penalties for CDL violations can include:
- Fines issued by local, state or federal officials
- Points on a CDL driver’s license.
- CDL suspended
- CDL revoked
- CDL permanently revoked
- Jail or prison sentence
If a truck driver was penalized in any way and caused a truck accident involving you or a loved one, make sure you fully understand your legal rights. Make sure you talk to an experienced Texas truck accident lawyer right away.
Get the Texas law firm that gets results. Contact us
The stakes are high if you or a family member sustained a serious injury in a truck accident in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio or another location in Texas. Your injury-related expenses (including medical bills, vehicle repairs and lost income) can easily add up to thousands of dollars or significantly more.
This is why you need a legal team on your side that knows the law and knows how to respond to a serious truck accident. Our attorneys at Tracey Fox & Walters have decades of combined legal experience handling complicated truck accident claims. As a result, we can get straight to work demanding the money you rightfully deserve.
Discover what we can do for you. Contact us and schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced Texas truck accident lawyer. We have offices conveniently located in Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.