Traffic jammed on I-287 North in Mahwah on Monday, when a tractor trailer was rear-ended by another driver, who was then airlifted to the emergency room at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson. In order for the helicopter to land on I-287 to minimize the time spent getting the driver proper medical attention, police closed down multiple lanes, which slowed traffic traveling on the highway.

Federal Commercial Motor Vehicle Regulations

Although it is unclear what caused the driver, who was injured, to rear-end the tractor trailer, many state and federal laws regulating Commercial Motor Vehicles could potentially come into play if the driver feels that the tractor trailer operator was at fault in the accident. If the tractor trailer’s weight rating exceeded 10,000, or if the truck was carrying hazardous materials, classifying it as a commercial motor vehicle, then many complex regulations geared at maximizing the safety of our roads will apply.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Framework

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has crafted a thorough framework of regulations that apply to commercial motor vehicles, their drivers, and the motor carriers for whom those drivers work. Under 49 CFR 395, standards are set forth regarding how many consecutive hours a driver may spend behind the wheel of his commercial vehicle, including special rules that apply for circumstances like adverse driving conditions and emergencies. Federal law also regulates how many hours a commercial driver must rest between spans of time behind the wheel. 49 CFR 40 and 49 CFR 382 requires drug and alcohol testing of all commercial drivers. Under 49 CFR 380, motor carriers must provide sufficient training for all commercial drivers, and 49 CFR 383, sets standards for the steps drivers must take and requirements drivers must meet in order to obtain a Commercial Drivers’ License. Commercial drivers are also required to carry a medical certificate, and undergo regular physical examinations.

Requisite Motor Carrier Practices

Additional federal regulations require that motor carriers whose vehicles transport commercial goods must maintain proper liability insurance, meeting the standards set under 49 CFR 387. Furthermore, motor carriers are also required under federal law to preserve various important records for specific periods of time under 49 CFR 379. Carriers also must follow safety fitness procedures set by federal law under 49 CFR 385, and must successfully show that they are following reasonable safety management standards and practices.

Potential Claims Based on Violations

If the tractor trailer driver involved in this accident, or the motor carrier for whom he worked, were in violation of any of these or other applicable federal or state regulations, the driver who rear-ended the tractor trailer might have a case for damages against the motor carrier to recover compensation for the injuries sustained in the accident.