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Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations trump lower state laws in trucking cases

Tip No. 10 for truck accident lawyers: how FMCSRs preempt state law in truck accident lawsuits where a driver is hurt by a negligent motor carrier

Big 18 wheelerHere’s the latest tip in my series of tips for truck accident lawyers.

In passing the Motor Carrier Act, Congress expressed its clear intent to establish a floor rather than a ceiling – minimum safety standards, 49 U.S.C. § 31136, and minimum financial responsibility requirements, 49 U.S.C. § 31139.

The express purpose of the Federal Regulations is to protect drivers by imposing financial responsibility on trucking companies and motor carriers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations implement the act, providing in 59 C.F.R. §  392.2 that:

“[e]very commercial motor vehicle must be operated in accordance with the laws, ordinances, and regulations of the jurisdiction in which it is being operated. However, if a regulation of the Federal Highway Administration imposes a higher standard of care than that law, ordinance or regulation, the Federal Highway Administration regulation must be complied with.

49 C.F.R. § 392.2 requires: “Every commercial motor vehicle must be operated in accordance with the laws, ordinances, and regulations of the jurisdiction in which it is being operated. However, if a regulation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration imposes a higher standard of care than that law, ordinance or regulation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulation must be complied with. In addition, 49 C.F.R. 392.14 provides, “if a regulation of a Federal Highway Administration imposes a higher standard of care than that law, ordinance, or regulation, the Federal Highway Administration must be complied with.”

Thus, the Regulations are intended to preempt state law in tort actions in which a member of the public is injured by the negligence of a motor carrier’s employee while operating an interstate carrier vehicle. See, e.g., Price v. Westmoreland, 727 F.2d 494 (5th Cir., 1984).

Related information:

Michigan trucking laws

Help for attorneys handling truck accident cases

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