Truck accidents account for some of the worst accidents on Michigan roads. Many of these collisions are caused by carelessness — or, in legal terms, negligence — on the part of one or more parties in the trucking industry. Typically, that means they violated strict state and federal trucking laws. When that’s the case, injured individuals may have the legal right to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions.
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a large truck or another commercial vehicle, call the Michigan semi-truck accident attorneys at Christensen Law. Our team of experienced lawyers has decades of experience representing Michiganders who have been injured in serious accidents throughout the state.
When you work with us, you’ve got experience and proven results on your side. Christensen Law has received numerous accolades for our work, including being named one of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Law Firms.” With our help, our clients have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for their accident-related injuries. Let us fight for you, too.
Get a free initial consultation by calling one of our four offices throughout Michigan. You can also visit our convenient contact page to arrange a case review at no cost.
What is Considered a Commercial Motor Vehicle in Michigan?
The Michigan Vehicle Code defines a commercial motor vehicle as any vehicle or combination of vehicles used by a business to transport people or goods, as long as one of the following conditions also applies:
- The vehicle is designed to transport 16 or more people at once, including the driver.
- The vehicle has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more. The minimum weight limit of 26,001 pounds includes the trailer for combination vehicles if the trailer weighs more than 10,000 pounds.
- The vehicle is carrying hazardous materials and is required to post a hazardous materials placard under federal guidelines.
This broad definition includes many different types of large vehicles, not just semi-trucks or buses. Other examples of commercial vehicles include:
- Commercial vans
- Delivery vans
- Utility vehicles
- Construction vehicles
- Tanker trucks
- Moving trucks
- Garbage trucks
- Cement trucks
- Logging trucks
- Mail trucks
Truck Driver Qualifications
The Truck Driver’s Guidebook distributed by the Michigan Center for Truck Safety lists the basic requirements to obtain a commercial driver’s license in the state. Truckers must:
- Have a Michigan commercial driver’s license (CDL) to operate a truck for both intrastate trips (staying within Michigan borders) and interstate trips (traveling to two or more states)
- Be age 18 or older to obtain a CDL for intrastate commerce, or at least 21 to get a CDL for interstate commerce or to handle any vehicle carrying hazardous materials
- Be able to read and speak English well enough to communicate with the general public, law enforcement, and other regulators
- Pass a medical exam, vision test, or obtain an exemption waiver
- Take and pass a written test and road skill evaluation
- Pay the appropriate CDL fees
In addition to these basic CDL requirements, Michigan also requires commercial drivers to obtain endorsements for certain kinds of vehicles. Those endorsements include:
- T: For driving double-or triple-trailer combination vehicles
- P: To operate vehicles designed to carry 15 or more passengers
- N: To legally operate tanker vehicles with full tanks, though towing a vehicle with an empty tank does not require it
- H: Authorizes the CDL holder to handle hazardous materials
- X: Replaces the N and H codes if the driver has obtained both the tanker vehicle and hazardous materials endorsement
- S: To drive a school bus
Finally, Michigan trucking accident laws require motor carriers to keep a log of a driver’s qualifications on file. Companies are also required to monitor their drivers for moving violations and other reports of negligent behavior. If motor carriers do not hire qualified drivers or do not adequately monitor drivers, it’s possible that they can be held liable for accidents caused by their employees.
Truck Driver Logs
Commercial vehicle operators in Michigan must maintain records of their activities according to rules set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Most are now required to use electronic logging devices, or ELDs, to monitor a truck’s activities.
Recording trip data electronically instead of having drivers write the logs themselves is meant to ensure more accurate information and keep drivers honest. If ELDs reveal drivers involved in accidents were speeding, not taking their mandatory rest breaks, or being otherwise negligent, anyone injured in a crash could have a valid legal claim against them.
Commercial vehicle operators must routinely inspect their vehicles for any problems. FMCSA generally sets those inspection requirements, which state that:
- The vehicle must be inspected by a qualified inspector once every year and a copy of the report must be kept for review if requested. Motor carriers are also required to keep proof that the inspector meets the necessary FMCSA qualifications.
- Drivers are required to make three daily inspections of their vehicle, equipment, and cargo. The mandatory daily inspections include:
- A pre-trip inspection
- One inspection during the trip
- A post-trip inspection, noting any defects in writing
- Any defects reported in a driver’s post-trip inspection must be fixed before the vehicle can be dispatched again. A copy of the report must be saved for at least 12 months.
- Motor carriers must keep a written maintenance schedule and records of all maintenance work performed on their vehicles. These records must be kept for all vehicles under a company’s control for at least 30 days, as well as for 18 months after leaving the company’s control.
Size and Weight Limits for Trucks
Size and weight limits for commercial vehicles in Michigan are complicated. However, there are a few broad guidelines to be aware of. They include:
- No single vehicle, with or without a load, can be longer than 40 feet.
- Tractor-trailer combinations have no overall length restrictions, as long as the trailer is no longer than 50 feet.
- Trailers longer than 50 feet can only be brought along designated highways, and the maximum trailer length is 53 feet.
- The maximum height of all vehicles is 13 feet, 6 inches without a special permit.
- There’s no general weight limit for commercial vehicles, though there are limits on certain roadways and bridges. These limits are determined by the Bridge Gross Weight Formula, which allows for 20,000 pounds per single axle or 34,000 pounds per tandem axle group. If a vehicle’s weight exceeds these limits, it will not be allowed on certain roads.
Keeping a truck at the required weight limits makes the roads safer for everyone. An overweight truck is more challenging to maneuver, limiting the driver’s ability to respond effectively to emergencies.
DOT Numbers on Commercial Trucks
Any motor carrier engaging in interstate commerce in Michigan must obtain an identification number (ID) from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for all their vehicles. The ID number must be posted on both sides of the vehicle.
Hazardous Materials Regulations
Michigan has adopted federal regulations governing the transportation of hazardous materials by commercial vehicles. Truck drivers must obtain a specific endorsement to transport hazardous materials. To get this endorsement, CDL drivers must:
- Provide proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency
- Complete a federal background check by the Transportation Security Administration and pay a fee
- Get their fingerprints registered
- Pass a written test on handling hazardous materials
Once CDL drivers meet these additional requirements, a hazardous materials endorsement will be added to their licenses.
DUI & OWI Laws for Truck Drivers
Michigan law says the legal limit for commercial vehicle operators is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.04 percent. This is half the usual legal limit of 0.08. Truck drivers can also be placed out of service for 24 hours for refusing to take a preliminary breath test. If a driver with a CDL is found guilty of DUI in Michigan or any other jurisdiction, their CDL will be revoked.
Michigan Hours-of-Service Laws
Truck drivers are on the roads for long periods. To reduce the chances of a fatigue-related accident, truckers in Michigan are required to comply with hours-of-service guidelines to make sure they’re getting enough rest. Here are the guidelines:
- Commercial drivers may work for up to 14 consecutive hours after being off-duty for at least 10 consecutive hours. This block of time starts as soon as the driver begins work, not when they start driving. Naps, meal breaks, and other off-duty activities do not stop this window. During that 14-hour block, drivers may only be behind the wheel for up to 11 total hours.
- Drivers must take a 30-minute break if it’s been more than 8 hours since their last break of at least 30 minutes.
- In any given seven-day or eight-day work period, truck drivers can cumulatively work up to 60 or 70 hours, respectively.
Contact a Michigan Truck Accident Lawyer Today
If you’ve been seriously hurt in a truck accident in Michigan, you need Christensen Law. Our law firm is known for its skill in handling claims involving commercial trucks. We successfully obtained a $17.8 million verdict for a woman struck by a cement truck in Wayne County — the largest personal injury verdict in the state to date.
Let us put our skills to work for you. Call or contact us for a free consultation.