Did you or someone you love get hurt in a commercial truck accident in North Carolina? If so, securing legal representation from a lawyer with a thorough understanding of North Carolina and federal trucking regulations is essential.
Schwaba Law Firm has a history of successful case results for local clients and families throughout North Carolina, including those suffering preventable harm from truck accidents. Andrew Schwaba has recovered millions in fair compensation for truck accident victims, and he can pursue the compensation you need to cope with your losses, too.
North Carolina Truck Speed Limits
Some states impose specific speed limits on commercial trucks based on factors such as size, weight, and cargo type. However, North Carolina isn’t one of them. Instead, commercial truck drivers are subject to the same speed limits that apply to most other drivers in North Carolina.
In North Carolina, speed limits are governed by general statutes as well as local and state ordinances. Specifically, within incorporated municipalities, the default speed limit is 35 miles per hour (mph), although local laws may establish different limits and post them accordingly.
The statutory speed limit for roads outside incorporated municipalities is 55 mph unless a different limit is established and posted by ordinance. Some state highway sections have set speed limits of up to 70 mph. However, these limits decrease to 55 mph in certain areas. Signs indicating these changes in speed limit are in place, so truck drivers in North Carolina are expected to slow down accordingly in these lower-speed zones.
North Carolina Truck Weight Limits
In North Carolina, the weight limits for commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are based on extreme axle measurements per federal bridge law. According to the guidelines provided by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT):
- Standard Weight Limits – The limit for a single axle is 20,000 pounds. For a tandem axle, the weight limit increases to 38,000 pounds. The standard maximum gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is 80,000 pounds under federal regulations.
- Overweight Permits – For vehicles with minimum wheelbases of 51 feet carrying overweight items, it’s possible to qualify for permits to carry up to 90,000 pounds. For weights exceeding 90,000 pounds, specifications of the exact origin, detailed route, and destination are required.
- Specific Axle Weight Limits – The maximum weight for a steer axle is 20,000 pounds. For single axles, the limit is 25,000 pounds. For tandem and tridem axles, the limits increase to 50,000 pounds and 60,000 pounds, respectively. For groupings of four or more axles, the maximum weight is 68,000 pounds.
Additionally, the following limits apply to maximum gross weights:
- For Vehicles with Five Axles and a Minimum 51-Foot Wheelbase – 94,500 pounds, or up to 112,000 pounds for a single-trip permit
- For Vehicles with Six Axles and a Minimum 51-Foot Wheelbase – 108,000 pounds, or up to 120,000 pounds for a single trip
- For Vehicles with Seven Axles and a Minimum 51-Foot Wheelbase – 122,000 pounds, or up to 132,000 pounds for a single-trip permit
North Carolina Height, Width, and Length Rules for Trucks
In North Carolina, commercial trucks have specific size limits as established by state and federal law:
- Width – The maximum allowable width for commercial vehicles on all roads in North Carolina is 102 inches (8 feet 6 inches). However, oversize permits are available for vehicles with maximum widths of up to 16 feet.
- Height – The maximum allowable height for commercial vehicles is 13 feet, 6 inches in North Carolina. Overheight permit applications are available through the NCDOT’s Central Permit Office for vehicles exceeding this height.
- Length – The maximum allowable length for a single vehicle in North Carolina is 40 feet, while a vehicle combination is limited to 60 feet. Permits are available for trucks up to 105 feet long that haul single-item commodities or truck combinations hauling multiple commodities in line.
North Carolina CDL Requirements
The requirements for obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in North Carolina essentially mirror those set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), including the following:
- Age Requirements – Drivers must be at least 21 years old to drive commercially across state lines or transport cargo that will be carried across state lines. Drivers must be at least 18 to be licensed to drive within North Carolina only.
- License Requirements – Before getting a CDL, you must have a regular North Carolina driver’s license. You must also pass knowledge and skills tests for the type or types of commercial vehicles you want to drive.
- Endorsement Requirements – You need additional endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, such as double or triple trailers, or carry certain cargo, such as hazardous materials.
- Hazmat Transportation Requirements – To haul hazardous materials (hazmat), you must pass a hazmat knowledge test and submit to a federal security threat assessment (background check) to obtain an H or X endorsement on your CDL.
North Carolina Load Securement Rules for Trucks
Cargo securement requirements for commercial vehicle operators, including those in North Carolina, are primarily governed by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. According to these regulations:
- All cargo-carrying commercial motor vehicles must distribute the cargo evenly and adequately secure it to prevent the load from leaking, spilling, blowing off, falling from the vehicle, or shifting in a manner that could affect stability or maneuverability.
- Cargo must be secured on or within a vehicle using structures, loose materials for protection and support, inflatable bags, tie-downs, or shoring bars.
- Drivers are responsible for knowing and following regulations for the types of cargo they carry.
- Specific regulations exist for different types of cargo (logs, concrete pipes, automobiles, etc.).
- Drivers must periodically inspect cargo and securements in transit to ensure they stay secure.
Requirements for Truck Owners and Fleet Managers
Truck owners and fleet managers in North Carolina are responsible for adhering to the following operating requirements:
- Driver Qualification Files – Fleet managers must maintain Driver Qualification Files for each employed driver. These files include driver’s applications for employment, inquiries into driving records, driver’s road test certificates, medical examiner’s certificates, and annual reviews.
- Drug and Alcohol Testing – Truck owners and fleet managers must implement drug and alcohol testing programs that conform to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations. This includes pre-employment, random, post-accident, reasonable suspicion, return-to-duty, and follow-up testing.
- Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations – Fleet managers need to ensure that their drivers comply with the federal HOS regulations. These mandate minimum rest periods and limit the daily and weekly hours a driver can drive or remain on duty.
- Vehicle Maintenance – Fleet managers are responsible for regular inspection, repair, and maintenance of each vehicle in their fleet. Maintenance records must be kept for each vehicle.
- Accident Registers – All truck owners and fleet managers must maintain records of accidents involving their vehicles. These accident registers should include information about each accident, people involved, injuries, fatalities, and hazardous materials.
Trucking Insurance Coverage Requirements
As a baseline, federal regulations require a minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance for commercial carriers that operate in interstate or foreign commerce and transport non-hazardous property. This applies to carriers with vehicles that have GVWRs of 10,000 pounds or more.
However, for different categories of commercial transportation, the insurance minimums North Carolina requires for interstate operations vary as follows:
- Specific Hazardous Substances – For-hire and private carriers transporting specific hazardous substances like certain Class A or Class B explosives, poison gas, liquefied compressed gas, compressed gas, or highway route-controlled quantity materials must have at least $5 million in coverage.
- Oil, Hazardous Waste, and Other Hazardous Materials – Carriers operating in interstate or foreign commerce that transport any quantity of oil, hazardous waste, hazardous materials, or hazardous substances must have minimum insurance coverage of $1 million.
- Class A or B Explosives, Poison Gas, and Radioactive Materials – Carriers transporting any quantity of Class A or B explosives, poison gas, or highway route-controlled quantity of radioactive materials must maintain at least $5 million in liability insurance.
Federal Trucking Regulations
Federal trucking regulations play a critical role in many truck accident injury cases. They establish the standard of care that truck drivers and trucking companies must follow. If a truck driver or company violates these regulations, that violation can be used as evidence in a personal injury lawsuit.
Here’s how these regulations can factor into a truck accident injury case:
- Negligence Per Se – If a truck driver or trucking company violates a safety regulation and that violation leads to an accident, the “negligence per se” doctrine could apply. This legal principle holds that a violation of a law intended to protect the public, such as a trucking regulation, is proof of negligence in and of itself.
- Spoliation of Evidence – Trucking regulations often require the preservation of specific records, such as driver log books, maintenance records, and more. If a trucking company destroys or loses these records after an accident, victims could hold them liable under a presumption known as spoliation of evidence.
- Respondeat Superior – Many trucking regulations apply to the companies that employ truck drivers, not just the drivers themselves. As a result, these companies can be held liable for their employees’ negligence under the doctrine of respondeat superior. This doctrine holds employers responsible for the actions their employees carry out within the course of their employment.
Get in Touch with a North Carolina Trucking Accident Lawyer
To Andrew Schwaba, your well-being is his priority. If you’re dealing with the fallout from a commercial truck accident, let him use his considerable resources to pursue compensation on your behalf. Get in touch with Schwaba Law Firm for a free consultation today to learn more about how Andrew can help.