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New Mexico Truck Accident Laws

Semi-trucks are large and heavy vehicles that can cause an immense amount of destruction in a motor vehicle accident. Due to their dangerous nature, there are numerous state and federal laws regarding the safe upkeep and operation of commercial trucks. If you get involved in an accident with a semi-truck in New Mexico, understanding the related truck accident laws can help you determine your legal rights as an injured victim.

Truck Driver Qualifications

To operate a large truck or any kind of commercial motor vehicle in New Mexico, a driver must obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) according to Part 391 of federal law. Getting a CDL requires passing both a skills and knowledge test to ensure that the driver has a higher level of knowledge, experience and physical abilities than the average driver. This is required to safely operate a large truck. Truck drivers in New Mexico must also obtain a Medical Examiner’s Certificate to ensure they are physically fit to operate a big rig and submit to a background check if handling hazardous materials.

Hours-of-Service Restrictions

Part 395 of the Code of Federal Regulations enacts hours-of-service (HOS) restrictions for commercial truck drivers. The purpose of this rule is to prevent truck driver fatigue. This rule states that no commercial driver that is carrying property may exceed 11 driving hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. There is also a 14-hour limit: no driver may drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty.

Truck drivers must also take a 30-minute break after driving for a period of eight cumulative hours. Finally, no driver may exceed a 60/70-hour driving limit in 7/8 consecutive days. However, in New Mexico, if a truck driver is operating within 100 or 150 miles of the regular place of business, he or she does not always need to adhere to the federal hours-of-service regulations.

Trucking Company and Truck Driver Documentation

Federal and state trucking laws emphasize documentation and record-keeping to improve the safety of the industry. At the end of each work day, truck drivers are required to produce vehicle examination reports, where they inspect their trucks to make sure they are in good working order. Drivers must also properly document their hours of service, often using electronic logging devices. Trucking companies must keep certain employment, fleet maintenance and cargo securement logs, as well.

Cargo Securement Regulations

Lost cargo loads are an accident risk involved with the commercial trucking industry. All cargo loaded onto the open bed of a flatbed truck or in the trailer of a tractor-trailer must be properly loaded, balanced and secured. The cargo should not place the truck off balance, as this runs the risk of rollover accidents. The truck also should not be overloaded, as too much weight could cause tire blowouts.

Federal laws are in place for how cargo should be secured, which tiedowns should be used, the maximum height and weight limits of commercial trucks, and special regulations for transporting hazardous materials. Violating these requirements could lead to cargo falling out of a truck in transit or other cargo-related accidents.

Post-Accident Protocols

If a truck accident takes place, the driver of the truck must submit to drug and alcohol testing. An investigation may be launched to determine if the truck driver exceeded his or her maximum hours of service, was texting and driving, or was negligent in some other regard. If the truck driver is found not at fault for the accident, the trucking company may still be liable through mistakes of its own. If the trucking company failed to properly inspect and maintain its fleet of trucks, for example, the trucking company may be held responsible for a related accident, such as a crash caused by a tire blowout or brake failure.

For assistance navigating New Mexico’s truck accident laws after a collision, contact the attorneys at The Fine Law Firm for a free case consultation.