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What's the difference between the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration?

When it comes to trucking safety regulations, various state and federal agencies have regulatory jurisdiction over certain aspects of the trucking industry. But, the FMCSA and NHTSA stand out because, together, they cover many major aspects of trucking safety.

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The mission of the FMCSA is to prevent commercial motor vehicle crash injuries and deaths. Its focus is on commercial, not personal, vehicles. The FMCSA enforces its trucking safety regulations which are known as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). These apply to commercial motor vehicles engaged in interstate commerce weighing 10,001 pounds or more, vehicles designed or used to transport fifteen or more passengers not for compensation, vehicles designed or used to transport eight or more passengers for compensation, and vehicles involved in either intrastate or interstate transportation of hazardous materials in reportable quantities. Its regulations include the training and testing standards for commercial driver's licenses. Its regulations involve vehicle inspections and maintenance. Its regulations govern vehicle operations. These regulations are important because they help establish the standard of care required by truck companies and their drivers.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is focused on regulating the safety of motor vehicles and related equipment and it promulgates regulations known as the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). The FMVSS cover the design, construction, performance, and safety-related components of new motor vehicles. Importantly, the FMVSS covers crash avoidance, crashworthiness, and post-crash survivability regulations. Subsequent to initial manufacture, NHTSA is permitted to regulate commercial motor vehicles and equipment when the standards are based upon and similar to a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard. But, the FMCSA can regulate the safety standards of commercial motor vehicle equipment subsequent to initial manufacture so long as the standards are not based on or similar to NHTSA Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

When a truck accident occurs, the injured victim and/or loved ones will need the help of an attorney with in-depth knowledge of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards because nuances in these laws may indicate that the trucking company and truck driver are partially or fully liable for the accident-even in cases where an initial review of the facts would suggest otherwise. An experienced truck crash attorney often will hire and retain commercial vehicle equipment safety experts and crash reconstruction engineering experts to prove that the trucking company violated federal regulations and that the violations contributed to the accident.

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