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Scrutinizing a truck driver’s pre-trip inspection: The cargo

Written by Steve Gursten Posted October 30th, 2013

Truck lawyers should focus more on the  pre-trip inspection to show that the truck driver is not  inspecting his tractor-trailer and cargo

truck cargo

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of truck lawyers really scrutinizing a truck driver’s pre-trip inspection.

Having attended and spoken at over 100 trucking seminars for lawyers across the country, I would say maybe two dozen lawyers in the nation today really know how to read driving logs and understand the time involved.  So I started with the basic inspection rules and discussed the additional requirements for inspecting the shipping container. And I also recommended that if a lawyer does not know how to do this, that he or she work closely with an experienced truck expert who can.

Today I’d like to expand further and review the pre-trip inspection for cargo.

Rule § 392.9 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Rules (FMCSRs) impose additional requirements on the truck driver whenever he or she is hauling cargo — be it a shipping container or not.

Under the cargo inspection rules, a driver must inspect his or her vehicle and cargo within the first 50 miles after beginning a trip, whenever the driver changes their duty status, and when the trucker drives more than 3 hours or 150 miles.

As an additional safeguard, the FMCSRs require that before driving the vehicle, the trucker must be satisfied that the semi-truck is in safe operating condition. § 396.13(a). If the truck driver is not fully satisfied that the truck is in safe working order, he or she cannot drive the truck, period.

Finally, as the law stands right now, every time a driver inspects the vehicle, he or she must submit a written report pursuant to § 396.11.

But remember, this might change soon. There’s a hotly debated FMCSA proposal  which would only require a written submission when the truck driver detects a defect with the semi-truck.

Tomorrow I will discuss what a truck attorney should do if the pre-trip inspection took only a few minutes to complete.

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About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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