What are the Trucking Laws in Virginia?
Virginia has its unique set of regulations governing the trucking industry to ensure everyone’s safety on the road. However, accidents happen, and if you’ve been involved in a trucking accident in Virginia, you need to know that local trucking laws play a crucial role in determining the outcome of all trucking accident cases, especially when vehicles involved come from other states with different regulations.
That’s why in today’s post we’ll dive deep into the specifics of Virginia’s trucking regulations, offering insights on the topic and highlighting the potential damages you might recover after an accident.
Overview of Trucking Laws in Virginia
Trucking laws, not only in Virginia but in every state, aim to strike a balance between facilitating commerce and ensuring road safety. Nevertheless, Virginia has unique trucking laws that are important to understand for every victim injured in a trucking accident:
In Virginia, truck drivers need to adhere to a strict set of guidelines, some of which are detailed on the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) website. These encompass everything from weight limits to hours of service, and truck drivers who violate these laws can be held liable for any accidents they cause.
These are the most important laws truck drivers need to follow:
- Commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirements.
- Hours of service regulations.
- Weight limits and permits.
- Drug and alcohol testing.
- Insurance requirements.
How Do Trucking Laws in Virginia Compare to Other States?
Virginia’s trucking laws are similar to those in other states, particularly neighboring states. However, there may be some differences in specific regulations.
For example, Virginia’s size and weight limits for trucks slightly differ from those in Maryland or North Carolina, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Specifically, Virginia’s truck weight limits for vehicles in regular operations are 20,000 lbs for single-axle vehicles and 34,000 lbs for tandem-axle vehicles.
However, in Maryland, the limits are also 20,000 lbs for single-axle vehicles (if the gross vehicle weight is more than 73,000 lbs), but 22,400 lbs if the gross vehicle weight is 73,000 lbs or less. On the other hand, in North Carolina, the weight limit for tandem-axle vehicles is 38,000 lbs, while the weight limit for single-axle vehicles is equal to Virginia’s.
So, there are divergences between Virginia’s truck weight limits and those of other states. The same happens with other trucking laws, such as length and width standards, as well as exemptions to federal truck size and weight limits. That’s why it’s important to know the trucking laws that specifically apply to Virginia in case of a trucking accident.
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Specific Trucking Laws in Virginia
Hours of Service Regulations
Virginia mandates specific hours of service for truck drivers, which are designed to minimize the risk of accidents due to driver exhaustion. Truck drivers are required to follow the following regulations regarding hours of service:
- 11-hour driving limit: After driving for 11 hours, the driver must take 10 consecutive hours off duty before they can drive again.
- 14-hour limit: After being on duty (both driving and non-driving tasks combined) for 14 hours, the driver cannot drive again until they’ve had 10 consecutive hours off duty. Importantly, any off-duty breaks taken during this 14-hour window don’t extend or pause the 14-hour limit.
- Rest breaks: After 8 hours of driving, truck drivers must take a 30-minute break.
- Weekly limits: The weekly limits include not driving for more than 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days.
When these regulations are not met and accidents occur due to the negligence of drivers or trucking companies, victims are entitled to receive fair compensation to cover all the damages.
Weight Limits and Permits
On the other hand, commercial trucks in Virginia are also subject to specific weight limits, as detailed in the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. These requirements are designed to prevent damage to roads and bridges, and exceeding these can result in hefty fines and potential legal consequences.
In Virginia, the maximum weight limit for commercial trucks is 80,000 pounds. However, there are ways to obtain overweight permits, but only when no other form of transportation is available and the load cannot be reduced to meet legal limits.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
Virginia has strict drug and alcohol testing requirements to ensure its truck drivers aren’t impaired when driving. These tests are designed to detect and deter substance abuse, which is a leading cause of trucking accidents.
This is why truck drivers are required to undergo drug and alcohol testing pre-employment (before they’re hired) and post-accident (after an accident that involves a fatality, a citation for a moving violation, or a vehicle being towed from the scene). Furthermore, truck drivers are also subject to random drug and alcohol testing throughout the year.
Most commercial trucks must carry liability insurance with the following minimum coverage:
- $50,000 for bodily injury or death of one person.
- $100,000 for bodily injury or death of two or more people.
- $25,000 for property damage.
However, it’s important to note that, although this is the case for most commercial trucks, some types of cargo or vehicles may require higher coverage amounts. For example, freight trucks, or tractor-trailers, traveling on the interstate are required to carry a minimum of $750,000 in coverage. Trucks carrying hazardous materials need to carry a minimum of a $5,000,000 insurance policy.
Overall, these policies are in place to provide financial protection to victims in the event of a trucking accident, ensuring they can be adequately compensated for their injuries and damages.
Proving Liability and Holding Responsible Truck Drivers Accountable
When it comes to proving liability in a truck accident case, there are some things to keep in mind, including:
Burden of Proof
The burden of proof for trucking accidents is on the plaintiff. This means that the victim must present compelling evidence to establish the truck driver’s negligence or wrongdoing.
In the case of trucking accidents, negligence can include actions such as speeding, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, or failing to follow hours of service regulations, among other causes.
To prove liability in a trucking accident case, it’s important to gather as much evidence as possible. Evidence indeed plays a crucial role in strengthening claims, and can include:
- Police reports
- Witness statements
- Photos of the accident scene
- Medical records
- Maintenance records of the truck
- And any other documentation relevant to the case
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Damages You Are Entitled to Recover After a Trucking Accident
Virginia’s legal framework provides avenues for victims of trucking accidents to seek compensation for their injuries and losses. There are various types of damages you may be entitled to recover, including economic, non-economic, and punitive damages.
Economic damages refer to tangible costs incurred due to the accident. These are easily quantifiable and include medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. In Virginia, victims can claim these damages to alleviate the financial strain post-accident.
On the other hand, non-economic damages refer to intangible losses, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of companionship. These can certainly be more difficult to quantify, however, victims need to secure compensation for these damages as well due to the significant strain they pose on a person’s life.
In cases where the truck driver’s actions were particularly malicious, victims can pursue punitive damages. These are designed to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar behavior in the future. For example, in cases that involve driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol or intentionally causing an accident, the victim can be awarded punitive damages.
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How an Attorney Can Protect Your Rights After a Trucking Accident in Virginia
Securing legal representation after a trucking accident is key to covering medical expenses, lost wages, and even emotional pain. But also, it’s needed to hold responsible parties accountable and make Virginia a safe place to live.
If you are the victim of a truck accident, a local personal injury attorney can help you understand the complex trucking laws in Virginia and gather the necessary evidence to build a strong case.
At Tronfeld West & Durrett, we have 51+ years of experience helping clients who have been involved in trucking accidents in Virginia. Don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation and we’ll evaluate your case to help you build a strong case on your behalf. Explore our comprehensive guide on traffic accidents involving cars.