Trucking Laws & Regulations in Texas

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The trucking industry is heavily regulated at the state and federal level to ensure that large trucks safely share the highways and roads with the public. When truck drivers and trucking companies fail to follow these laws and regulations, they put everyone at risk of a catastrophic accident.

If you have questions about how Texas trucking laws may affect your personal injury case, contact the Houston truck accident attorneys of Pines & Goldenzweig, PLLC, today. Our skilled attorneys will guide you through every step of the process and ensure you always understand what’s happening in your case. Get your free consultation now.

Truck Driver Qualifications

All truck drivers must have a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL). Texas issues three classes of CDLs, which authorize a driver to operate commercial vehicles of various weights or passenger capacities. Certain types of commercial vehicles also require drivers to pass specialized tests to obtain specific endorsements to their CDLs to operate those types of vehicles.

Drivers must be at least 18 years old to obtain a CDL to drive within the state of Texas and 21 years old to operate a commercial truck across state lines. Drivers are also required to speak and read English well enough to converse with the public, read road signs, respond to official inquiries, and fill out reports and records.

Truck drivers must pass regular medical fitness inspections. Although under certain circumstances, truck drivers may obtain waivers from particular aspects of the medical fitness requirements.

Truck Inspection Requirements

Motor carriers and truck drivers are required to regularly inspect vehicles under their control. Drivers are required to perform post-trip inspections at the end of each driving day, examining at least the following parts:

  • Service brakes
  • Hand brakes
  • Steering
  • Lights and reflectors
  • Tires
  • Horns
  • Windshield wipers
  • Rearview mirrors
  • Coupling devices
  • Wheels and rims
  • On-board emergency equipment

Drivers must report any condition they believe will affect the safe operation of the truck or that might cause a breakdown. Drivers must also ensure their truck can be safely operated before starting the next driving day, including signing and acknowledging a report that all deficiencies reported in the last post-trip inspection report have been corrected.

Motor carriers must also perform periodic inspections of all vehicles under their control at least once every 12 months.

Truck Size and Weight Limits

Trucks must meet certain size and weight limits to operate in Texas:

  • Width: No more than 8’6”
  • Height: No more than 14 feet
  • Length: 45 feet for a single motor vehicle, 59 feet for a semi-trailer of a two-vehicle combination, 65 feet for a two- or three-vehicle combination other than a truck-tractor combination with each trailer no more than 28.5 feet. Truck-tractors have no length limit.
  • Front overhang: No more than 3 feet
  • Rear overhang: No more than 4 feet
  • Total vehicle weight: No more than 80,000 pounds
  • Weight on single axle: No more than 20,000 pounds
  • Weight on tandem axle group: No more than 34,000 pounds
  • Weight on triple axle group: No more than 42,000 pounds
  • Weight on quad axle group: No more than 50,000 pounds

Trucks that exceed these size and weight limits must obtain special permits from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

Hazardous Materials Regulations

Hazardous materials, which include any substance defined as posing an unreasonable risk to health and safety or property, are subject to stricter regulations. Examples of classes of hazardous materials include:

  • Explosives
  • Flammable gas
  • Non-flammable gas
  • Poison gas
  • Flammable or combustible liquids
  • Flammable solids
  • Spontaneously combustible materials
  • Materials dangerous when wet
  • Oxidizers
  • Organic peroxides
  • Poisonous liquids or solids
  • Infectious substances
  • Radioactive materials
  • Corrosive materials

Truck drivers wishing to transport hazardous materials must complete specific hazardous materials training and obtain the required endorsement for their CDL.

Carriers are required to register with the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to transport certain types of hazardous materials. This includes radioactive materials, more than 55 pounds of certain types of explosives, more than 1.06 quarts per package of toxic inhalants, or bulk liquids or gases above certain quantities.

Trucks containing certain kinds of explosives must be attended at all times by either the driver or a qualified representative of the motor carrier unless parked on the property of the motor carrier, shipper, or consignee.

No one may smoke in or near a truck containing certain explosive or flammable materials or near an empty tank used to transport flammable materials.

Texas DWI Laws for Truck Drivers

Truck drivers are subject to strict alcohol and controlled substance laws. No truck driver may begin to perform duties for a motor carrier until they have passed a drug test.

Following an accident involving death, bodily injury requiring medical attention at the scene, or disabling damage to a motor vehicle, a truck driver involved in the accident must undergo an alcohol and drug screen.

Motor carriers must also randomly test at least 10 percent of their drivers per year for alcohol, and 50 percent of their drivers per year for controlled substances. Motor carriers may also require individual drivers to undergo alcohol and/or drug screening upon reasonable suspicion the driver has violated the drug and alcohol laws, based upon specific observations of the driver’s appearance, behavior, speech, or body odor.

No truck driver may be on duty while possessing, using, or being under the influence of any Schedule I drug, any amphetamine, narcotics or their derivatives, or any other substance that makes driving unsafe.

Within four hours of going on duty, while driving, or while on duty, drivers may not be under the influence of or consume alcohol. Drivers may not possess alcoholic beverages while on duty, unless part of the shipment.

Unlike motorists of private vehicles who may be convicted for driving while intoxicated (DWI) with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater, truck drivers in Texas can be convicted of DWI with a BAC on 0.04 percent or greater.

Texas Hours of Service Laws

Drivers are required to adhere to various limits on their hours of service, including:

  • Drivers may drive up to 11 hours following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • Drivers may not drive for more than eight hours since the driver’s last off-duty period or a sleeper berth rest period of at least 30 minutes.
  • Drivers may not drive past the 14th hour after coming on duty. This 14-hour limit cannot be extended with rest breaks, fuel stops, or meal periods.
  • Drivers may not spend more than 60 total hours on duty in any seven-consecutive-day period, or more than 70 total hours in any eight-consecutive-day period. These seven- or eight-day periods may reset after the driver has spent at least 34 consecutive hours off duty, which must include at least two periods between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Talk to a Texas Trucking Accident Lawyer Today

If you’ve been involved in a crash with a big rig, do not wait to get the legal advice you need. Contact the Houston truck accident attorneys of Pines & Goldenzweig, PLLC, today for a free consultation.