When truck accidents occur, trucking law and regulation violations are often the cause. When identifying and pursuing compensation from the at-fault party for their negligence, it’s important to understand the legal and regulatory framework surrounding these incidents. However, few laypeople fully comprehend the complex and intricate web of federal and Wisconsin trucking laws.
That’s why it’s best to call on an experienced and knowledgeable legal team like Schwaba Law Firm after a devastating truck accident. Andrew Schwaba is a skilled, seasoned, and compassionate attorney who will protect your rights and seek maximum compensation for your trucking accident injuries and losses.
Wisconsin Truck Speed Limits
Wisconsin law sets the following speed limits for different types of roads and circumstances:
- Reasonable and Prudent Limit – No drivers, including truck drivers, may drive faster than is “reasonable and prudent” for the conditions present. Because of a truck’s massive size and weight, a prudent speed limit may be much lower in Wisconsin for truck drivers than for other drivers.
- 15 Miles Per Hour – In school zones, on roads adjacent to parks and recreation areas, or in alleys.
- 25 Miles Per Hour – On highways and service roads within city limits.
- 35 Miles Per Hour – In outlying districts within city limits or on highways in semiurban districts.
- 45 Miles Per Hour – On highways designated as rustic roads.
- 65 Miles Per Hour – On an expressway.
- 70 Miles Per Hour – On freeways and interstate highways.
- 55 Miles Per Hour – On all other roads without posted limits.
In addition, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is considering establishing new speed limit regulations on commercial motor vehicles operating in interstate commerce.
Wisconsin Truck Weight Limits
Wisconsin highways are designated either Class A or Class B. Wisconsin sets limits on the amount of weight that any one wheel or axle can handle for trucks traveling on Class A highways:
- Any One Wheel (or Set of Wheels on One End of An Axle) – 11,000 pounds
- Steering Axle – 13,000 pounds
- Single Axle – 20,000 pounds
Wisconsin truck weight limits for Class B roadways are 60 percent of Class A limitations.
The maximum allowable weight for a commercial vehicle in Wisconsin is 80,000 pounds, which is the same as the federal limit for interstate commerce. Exceptions may apply for trucks hauling forestry or dairy products.
For situations when truck drivers need to carry overweight loads, they must apply for a permit from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT).
Wisconsin Height, Width, and Length Rules for Trucks
Wisconsin establishes the following maximum size restrictions for all vehicles, including commercial trucks:
- Width (Vehicle and Load) – 8 feet, 6 inches (this does not include the rearview mirrors, turn signal lamps, handles for cab entry, splash guards, door hardware, tie-down devices, toe holds, or retractable steps that do not extend 3 inches past the side of the truck)
- Height (Vehicle and Load) – 13 feet, 6 inches
- Length (single Vehicle and Load) – 45 feet
- Length (Combination of 2 Vehicles and Load) – 70 feet
In some cases, drivers of oversize trucks must seek a permit from the Wisconsin DOT. However, certain oversized vehicles, such as farm tractors, can traverse Wisconsin highways without a permit during specific times on specific days.
Wisconsin CDL Requirements
While federal regulations require most commercial truck drivers to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL), drivers must obtain the license from their home state. Each state implements its own process and requirements for obtaining a CDL. The CDL requirements for Wisconsin are as follows:
- Age Requirements – To pursue a CDL, you must be at least 18 years old.
- License Requirements – A driver seeking a CDL must have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license. They must obtain a Commercial Learner Permit (CLP), valid for 180 days and allowing the driver to practice with a qualified driving instructor or CDL holder 21 years or older. After 14 days, a CLP holder can take a skills test, which they must pass for the type of vehicle they intend to drive. They must also pass a federal medical examination by a certified medical examiner within two years of applying for a CDL. CDL applicants must provide their Social Security number and proof of citizenship or legal status. CDL holders must renew their licenses every eight years.
- Endorsement Requirements – Wisconsin issues endorsements on CDLs, allowing commercial drivers to perform certain operations. Examples of endorsements include school bus, passenger vehicle, hazardous materials, tank vehicles, double or triple trailers, and farm service. The requirements to receive an endorsement differ according to type. For example, to receive a school bus endorsement, you must pass additional knowledge and skills tests, undergo a background check, and sometimes submit fingerprints. On the other hand, farm service endorsements require only an additional knowledge test.
- Hazmat Transportation Requirements – CDL applicants seeking a hazardous materials “H” endorsement must provide their fingerprints for a criminal background check by the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The Wisconsin DOT maintains a list of crimes that disqualify someone from ever receiving an “H” endorsement, including espionage, sedition, unlawful handling of an explosive device, and murder. Crimes such as arson, bribery, immigration violations, kidnapping, rape, assault, and robbery result in a seven-year disqualification. Being adjudicated as lacking mental capacity or involuntarily committed to a mental facility also disqualifies you from receiving an “H” endorsement.
Wisconsin Load Securement Rules for Trucks
Wisconsin laws impose severe consequences for unsecured loads on the road. The laws include:
- All drivers must secure their loads to prevent dropping, leaking, shifting, or side swaying under any conditions.
- Vehicles carrying tree logs must properly contain them within a cargo body and fasten them with appropriate devices.
- Vehicles hauling junk or scrapped vehicles must have sides or side stakes, a rear gate or stakes, and at least two secure fastening devices on each tier across the vehicle’s width to contain their contents.
Furthermore, federal regulations require truck drivers to perform periodic inspections to ensure their loads are properly secured.
Requirements for Truck Owners and Fleet Managers
Truck owners and fleet managers must also comply with numerous federal and state regulations, including the following:
- Registration – Truck owners and fleet managers must register with several federal and state entities, including the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, U.S. Department of Transportation, Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles, and Wisconsin Carriers Registration System, among others.
- Taxes – Motor carrier companies must pay taxes, such as the international fuel tax and heavy vehicle use tax.
- Record Keeping and Retention – Motor carrier companies must maintain detailed and accurate reports, such as trip reports and fuel records, and retain these records for several years. For example, a company must retain records that support its annual renewal to the International Registration Plan for three years after the registration year closes. The Wisconsin DOT can periodically audit motor carriers to ensure they maintain and retain records properly.
- Inspection, Repair, and Maintenance – Federal regulations dictate how motor carriers should inspect, repair, and maintain their fleet.
Trucking Insurance Coverage Requirements
Under Wisconsin law, trucking companies must maintain certain levels of insurance coverage on their vehicles, depending on the truck’s weight and use. The minimum levels of liability insurance required in Wisconsin are as follows:
- Commercial vehicles of 10,000 pounds or less gross vehicle weight transporting non-hazardous product – $300,000
- Commercial vehicles of over 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight transporting non-hazardous product – $750,000
- Commercial vehicles transporting oil and certain types of hazardous waste – $1 million
- Commercial vehicles transporting other hazardous substances – $5 million
Federal Trucking Regulations
Beyond Wisconsin trucking regulations, federal regulations also impose numerous requirements on truck drivers. Here are the most important federal trucking regulations that truck accident victims should know about:
- Hours of Service Regulations – Truck drivers must comply with federal hours of service regulations to prevent fatigued driving. For example, truckers cannot drive for more than 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. They must take a 30-minute break when driving for eight cumulative hours without interruption.
- Alcohol or Drug Use – Under federal regulations, truck drivers cannot consume or be under the influence of alcohol within four hours of going on duty, nor have any measured alcohol concentration while on duty or operating a commercial truck. Federal regulation also forbids reporting to or remaining on duty while using any Schedule I drug or other scheduled substance, except when prescribed by a licensed medical professional.
- Alcohol and Drug Testing – Federal regulations require drivers to submit to alcohol and drug testing protocols instituted by their employer, including mandatory pre-employment and post-accident testing, random testing, and testing based on reasonable suspicion.
Get In Touch with a Wisconsin Trucking Accident Lawyer
In the aftermath of a truck accident that injured you, navigating the complex landscape of trucking laws and regulations can feel overwhelming, especially when trying to recover physically, emotionally, and financially. Schwaba Law Firm can help you understand your rights, investigate your case, and fight for your best interests.
Let Andrew Schwaba provide the support and legal advocacy you need during this challenging time. Contact a Wisconsin trucking accident lawyer from Schwaba Law Firm today for a free consultation about getting the compensation you need.