Texas Trucking Laws & Regulations

truck on highway with filter

Large commercial trucks are subject to strict state and federal regulations intended to ensure the safe operation of these vehicles on the same roads utilized by far smaller and lighter vehicles. When truck drivers and trucking companies negligently, recklessly or intentionally fail to follow trucking laws, they risk devastating truck crashes that can cause catastrophic and potentially life-threatening injuries to innocent people.

If violations of Texas trucking laws may have caused a crash that severely injured you, an experienced truck accident attorney at our firm can help you pursue justice and secure rightful compensation that you’ll need for your recovery. Troy A. Brookover has been fighting for the rights of Texans for more than 30 years. He is Board Certified “by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, which is an honor that has been granted to less than 7 percent of all the lawyers who practice in Texas. With Troy on your side, you can be confident that you have a skilled and experienced advocate in your corner.

If you’re unsure of whether a violation caused your crash, that’s okay. Below, we will discuss the specific rules that Texas truck drivers and out-of-state drivers operating in Texas are required to follow. The dedicated team at the Law Offices of Troy A. Brookover can also explain these rules in greater detail during a free initial case evaluation. If you have been a victim of a truck accident, you deserve to know if someone’s rule breaking contributed to the cause(s) of your crash and whether that party now owes you compensation for the harm they caused.

Federal Truck Driver Hours of Service Laws

Under federal regulation, truck drivers may not exceed a certain number of hours on duty and behind the wheel. These restrictions are intended to prevent truck drivers from becoming fatigued or drowsy while driving, which can pose a serious risk of an accident. These are some of the current truck driver hours of service rules that are violated most frequently in one way or another. Drivers:

  • Must have spent at least 10 consecutive hours off duty before starting their shift
  • May not drive beyond their 14th straight hour after coming off an off-duty period of at least 10 hours
  • Must take a break from driving of at least 30 minutes after having driven eight consecutive hours, and the break may be spent on-duty while not driving, off-duty, or in the sleeper berth
  • May not drive more than 60 total hours in any seven-consecutive day period or 70 total hours in any eight-consecutive day period. These seven- or eight-day periods restart after an off-duty period of at least 34 consecutive hours.
  • Can split the 10-hour off-duty period, so long as one period is at least two hours long and the other involves at least seven consecutive hours spent in a sleeper berth
  • May extend the 11- and 14-hour limits by up to two hours when driving through adverse conditions

Drivers may be exempt from the hours-of-service laws if they operate within a 150 air-mile radius of their work-reporting location, their duty shift does not exceed 14 hours, and they return to their work-reporting location at the end of the shift.

Inspections and Other Federal Truck Regulations

Trucking companies are required to perform comprehensive inspections of their trucks and trailers no less than every 12 months. Inspections must cover at least all the items listed in the Minimum Periodic Inspection Standards of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The trucking company must keep the inspection report on file for at least 14 months. In Texas, trucking companies can meet this requirement through the state’s periodic inspection program, which has been deemed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to be equivalent to federal inspection requirements.

Additionally, before starting any trip, truck drivers must visually inspect the vehicle and determine, in the driver’s judgment, that the vehicle can be safely operated. At the end of every duty shift, truck drivers must also complete a written post-trip vehicle inspection report. The report must list any defects or deficiencies in a truck or trailer that the driver believes would affect the vehicle’s safe operation or could result in a mechanical breakdown of the vehicle. Any defects or deficiencies listed in a driver’s post-trip inspection report must be corrected or repaired before the truck may be operated again.

Texas Trucking Regulations

The state law in Texas also imposes various regulations on the trucking industry. These laws and regulations include:

Texas truck speed limits

In Texas, large commercial trucks must observe a speed limit of 70 mph on limited-access highways and interstates. However, on some rural sections of interstates in Texas, commercial trucks have a lower speed limit of 65 mph during nighttime hours.

Texas truck weight limits

Commercial trucks must also stay within certain weight and dimensional limits to operate on Texas public roads. These limits include:

  • Width: 8’6”
  • Height: 14 feet
  • Length: 45 feet for a single vehicle, 59 feet for a semi-trailer, 65 feet for two-plus vehicle combinations other than a truck tractor, with a maximum individual trailer length of 28.5 feet
  • Gross vehicle weight: 80,000 pounds
  • Single axle weight: 20,000 pounds
  • Tandem axle group weight: 34,000 pounds
  • Triple axle group weight: 42,000 pounds
  • Quad axle group weight: 50,000 pounds

Trucks that exceed these dimensional and weight limits are required to obtain an oversize or overweight permit from the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.

Texas House Bill 19

Texas House Bill 19, effective September 1, 2021, changed the traditional rules regarding employer liability for truck accidents. Traditionally, an employer could be held jointly liable for injuries and losses caused by an employee’s negligence during the course and scope of the employee’s job duties. However, under Texas House Bill 19, more responsibility is shifted to the truck driver, and finding the trucking company liable for the crash is more challenging.

The bill creates a bifurcated trial process in truck accident lawsuits. During the first part of a truck accident trial, an injured accident victim must prove the truck driver was at fault for causing the crash and establish what financial and personal losses the victim has suffered from the accident.

If a truck accident victim can establish a truck driver’s liability for a crash, the trial proceeds to a second phase against the trucking company. In this phase, a truck crash victim can only recover punitive damages from the trucking company and can recover only if the victim can prove that the trucking company committed gross negligence or recklessness in its hiring, training, oversight, and driver policies.

The law also restricts a truck accident victim’s ability to access a trucking company’s safety record. While proponents of the law argue that it will reduce the number of “frivolous” lawsuits against trucking companies, opponents contend that it will make the trucking industry in Texas less safe since trucking companies have less financial incentive to ensure their drivers adhere to state and federal trucking regulations.

Texas CDL Laws

In Texas, a truck driver must have a commercial driver’s license to operate a commercial truck. Texas issues three classes of CDLs, which authorize drivers to operate certain kinds of commercial vehicles:

  • Class A: May operate any vehicle or combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more if the gross vehicle weight rating of a towed vehicle or combination of towed vehicles exceeds 10,000 pounds
  • Class B: May operate any single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, or a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more that is towing a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less, or any vehicle designed to transport 24 or more passengers (including the driver)
  • Class C: May operate any single vehicle or combination of vehicles not covered by Class A or Class B, or any vehicle designed to transport 16 to 23 passengers (including the driver)

Truck drivers may also obtain endorsements to their CDL, which can permit them to operate specific types of vehicles or to transport certain kinds of cargo. Common CDL endorsements include:

  • T: May operate double and triple trailers
  • P: May operate a passenger vehicle, like a city bus
  • N: May operate a tanker vehicle
  • H: May haul hazardous materials
  • S: May operate a school bus
  • X: May operate a tanker vehicle hauling hazardous materials

Drivers must be at least 18 years old to obtain a CDL and operate a commercial truck within the state of Texas or at least 21 years old to obtain a CDL to operate a commercial truck in interstate commerce. Drivers must pass knowledge and skills tests to obtain a CDL, and some drivers are also required to obtain a federal medical certification.

How a Texas 18-Wheeler Accident Lawyer Can Help You

If you have been injured in a crash with a semi-truck, let a Texas 18-wheeler accident lawyer at the Law Offices of Troy A. Brookover pursue financial compensation for any losses that you may have sustained in the accident. Troy can fight to secure the recovery you deserve by:

  • Securing all available evidence from the accident and all potentially relevant documents, including driver logs, truck “black box” logs, cargo manifests, and vehicle inspection reports
  • Working with accident reconstruction and trucking industry experts to persuasively explain how relevant parties caused the crash
  • Documenting your ongoing and future anticipated expenses and losses to ensure we pursue the full compensation to which you’re entitled
  • Filing your claims with the trucking companies and their insurers and vigorously pursuing maximum financial recovery for you through a settlement, or by taking your case to court and trial if necessary

To learn more about how a Texas commercial truck accident attorney from the Law Offices of Troy A. Brookover can help, contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to speak with a knowledgeable legal team member about the details of your case. We look forward to learning about how we can help you during this challenging time.