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6 ways Michigan lawyers can maximize the value of cases involving small trucks

September 5, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

Many smaller trucks that don’t require a CDL still  fall under FMSCR rules

Commercial motor vehicle cases involving small trucks

I write a monthly legal advice column for Attorney At Law magazine, and I’ve been writing about litigation strategies involving truck accident cases. My last article  focused on trucking cases that might not seem like a commercial trucking case at all.  The danger is that plaintiff personal injury lawyers are handling these cases like car accident cases with bigger policy limits, and completely missing the truck case.


Here are the highlights:

When most attorneys think of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) case, we usually think of fully-loaded, 18-wheel tractor-trailers.

But did you know that a pickup truck can also be subject to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs)?

Think of the cases you’re handling now. Do you have a case involving a pickup truck pulling a landscape trailer? Or a case involving a small local delivery truck? It may sound counter-intuitive, but smaller trucks that do not require a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate can still be subject to almost all of the same federal truck safety regulations as the big rigs we normally associate with the FMCSRs.

Let’s talk about maximizing the value of the truck case that you may be missing.

  1. What constitutes a CMV – Most people think of CMVs as those that require a driver to carry a CDL. Yet there’s an entire segment of smaller vehicles that are common and still meet a lesser known definition, such as property-carrying CMVs. A CDL isn’t required to operate these smaller vehicles, but they’re still governed by most of the same truck safety regulations that control bigger trucks.
  2. Determine the Gross Combination Weight Rating – Whenever you have a case that involves a vehicle towing a trailer, make sure you determine the gross combination weight rating. You likely have a commercial motor vehicle.
  3. The trucking regs that apply – Just about all of the FMCSRs apply to the operation of non-CDL vehicles, with a few minor variations.
  4. HOS and fatigued driving violations – Many employers of non-CDL drivers do not keep time records. Also, be on the lookout for moonlighting drivers and drivers who are working more than one job at once.
  5. Consider required knowledge and skills – Look at the required knowledge and skills set forth in section 383.11 and 383.13. The CDL manual is a great resource to get an understanding about the required skills and knowledge to drive CMVs.
  6. A driver without a CDL should not be treated differently – In cases where a driver does not hold a CDL, ask whether there’s any legitimate reason why this driver should be treated any differently than the CDL driver under particular circumstances of your case.

Federal and state trucking safety regulations apply to a much broader population of vehicles, drivers and employers than is commonly known. It might be time to take a second look at some of your cases.

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