Federal & State Trucking Laws in Virginia

trucks on highway

The trucking industry is highly regulated at the state and federal levels. The laws and regulations are intended to help keep other motorists and pedestrians safe when sharing the road with large commercial trucks. When truck drivers or trucking companies fail to follow Virginia trucking laws, they put everyone on the road around them at risk.

If you have been injured in a wreck, contact the Virginia truck accident attorneys of Arrington Schelin. For over 40 years, our trusted legal team has advocated for people who suffered life-altering injuries in crashes that could have been prevented. Call us or contact us online today for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.

Understanding Virginia Truck Laws and Federal Trucking Laws

Commercial truck drivers and trucking companies have a duty to follow Virginia law as well as federal regulations that govern operation of a commercial motor vehicle. Typically, Virginia trucking laws primarily apply to commercial trucks that are operated solely within the borders of Virginia. Federal trucking laws typically apply to commercial motor vehicles that are operated across state lines or national borders.

Safety and Equipment Requirements for Trucks in Virginia

Trucks must follow certain safety performance and equipment requirements under Virginia law, including:

  • All trailers, semi-trailers, and separate vehicles attached to a towing vehicle must be equipped with their own brakes controlled by the driver of the towing vehicle, if the gross weight including load exceeds 3,000 pounds. Vehicles manufactured starting in 1964 must also be equipped with an emergency breakaway system that engages if the trailer breaks away from the towing vehicle.
  • All trucks traveling at 20 mph or more must be able to stop within 40 feet on ideal road conditions.
  • All trucks must be equipped with the factory-installed exhaust system, which must be kept in good working order.
  • Trucks must be equipped with a horn capable of being heard from at least 200 feet away and with mirrors that give a driver a view of at least 200 feet from the rear of the vehicle.
  • Trucks must also have windshields and wipers.
  • Trailers or other towed vehicles must be attached by a fifth wheel, drawbar, or trailer hitch or similar device, and they can only be towed by cables, chains, or ropes in an emergency to the nearest garage or shop.
  • Trucks with a gross weight of 40,000 pounds or more (including the load) must be equipped with rear fenders, mudflaps, or splash guards.
  • Trucks must also have a fire extinguisher that is accessible, fully charged, and freezeproof.
  • Trucks must have functional amber flashing lights, headlights, rear lamps, stop lamps, and indicator lights.
  • When stopped on the shoulder of the road, a truck driver must turn on the truck’s hazard lights and deploy at least three emergency warning devices (e.g., flares, torches, warning triangles). Two must be placed at least 100 feet in front of and behind the truck, while a third must be placed at least 10 feet away from the rear corner side of the truck facing the road.

Length, Width, and Height Requirements for Trucks in Virginia

Under Virginia law, trucks must meet certain dimensional requirements. For trucks that operate on interstates or certain designated highways, length limits include:

  • 40 feet, excluding load, for a truck
  • 48 feet (or 53 feet under certain circumstances) for a semi-trailer
  • For twin trailers, 28.5 feet each, including load
  • No restrictions for combination trailers

Commercial trucks are limited to a maximum width of 102 inches, excluding mirrors, and to a maximum height of 13 feet, 6 inches.

On all roads other than interstates and designated highways, truck length restrictions include:

  • 40 feet, excluding load, for a truck
  • 53 feet for a semi-trailer
  • No length limitation for combination trucks
  • Twin trailers not permitted

On these roads, trucks are again limited to a maximum width of 102 inches, excluding mirrors, and to a maximum height of 13 feet, 6 inches.

Trucks that exceed these dimensional restrictions are required to obtain an oversize permit from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Virginia Axle Weight Limits

Trucks are also required to observe maximum weight limits, depending on how many axles the vehicle has and the distance between axles. Exceeding an axle weight limit requires first obtaining an overload permit from the DMV.

No one axle may bear more than 20,000 pounds. Tandem axles (more than 40 inches but no more than 96 inches of spacing between axle centers) may bear no more than 34,000 pounds.

Maximum gross vehicle weight rating limits under Virginia law include:

  • Single unit with two axles: 40,000 pounds
  • Single unit with three axles: 54,000 pounds
  • Semi-trailer with three axles: 60,000 pounds
  • Semi-trailer with four axles: 74,000 pounds
  • Semi-trailer with five or six axles: 80,000 pounds
  • Twin trailer with five or more axles: 80,000 pounds

No vehicle of any configuration may operate on Virginia roads if it exceeds a gross vehicle or combination weight rating of 80,000 pounds.

Hours of Service Regulations

Under Virginia law, truck drivers engaged in intrastate commerce may not drive more than 12 total hours after spending at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty or drive after spending more than 16 hours on duty following at least 10 consecutive hours off duty. Drivers may not drive after spending 70 hours on duty over seven consecutive days, or 80 hours over eight consecutive days.

For truck drivers engaged in interstate commerce, federal hours of service regulations include:

  • Truck drivers may not drive for more than 11 total hours during any 14-consecutive-hour period that begins upon starting duty and following any off-duty period of at least 10 consecutive hours.
  • During any on-duty period, truck drivers may not drive after more than eight hours following the driver’s last off-duty. The driver must take a rest period of at least 30 minutes before resuming driving.
  • Drivers may not operate a vehicle after spending at least 60 hours on duty in any seven-consecutive-day period, or more than 70 hours in any eight-consecutive-day period. These periods can restart after a driver spends at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.

Driving time is considered to include any time spent behind the wheel. On-duty time includes driving time as well as any time a truck driver spends performing work-related duties or being ready to work.

Inspections and Maintenance

Trucks and trailers or semi-trailers must be inspected by a certified mechanic at an official Virginia inspection station. However, trucks operating in interstate commerce are deemed to have met the state inspection requirement if they follow federal inspection requirements, which include annual and periodic inspections.

Classes of Commercial Driver’s Licenses in Virginia

In Virginia, truck drivers can obtain one of three classes of commercial driver’s licenses (CDL):

  • Class A – Permits operation of any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more.
  • Class B – Permits operation of a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more or a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more towing another vehicle with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less.
  • Class C – Permits operation of any vehicle not included in Class A or B that carries hazardous materials requiring a placard or that is designed to carry 16 or more passengers (including the driver).
  • Endorsements – Truck drivers may also apply for endorsements to be added to their CDL to allow them to transport certain types of cargo or operate certain kinds of vehicles. Examples of CDL endorsements include an H endorsement for hazardous materials, an N endorsement that permits operating a tank vehicle, and a T endorsement that permits operating a vehicle towing a double or triple trailer.

Holding a Class A CDL also permits a driver to operate vehicles that fall under the qualifications of Class B and Class C licenses. A Class B CDL also allows a driver to operate vehicles that meet the qualifications for a Class C license.

What Happens When Truck Drivers and Trucking Companies Break the Law?

When truck drivers or trucking companies violate state and federal trucking laws and regulations, they can face penalties that include fines or revocation of driver’s licenses and operating certificates.

If a truck driver or trucking company causes an accident while violating federal or state regulations, that violation may serve as evidence of negligence or recklessness in a claim for compensation.

How Our Virginia Truck Accident Lawyers Can Help

Due to the extensive laws and regulations governing the trucking industry, pursuing a truck accident claim can be a complex and time-consuming process. Let the Virginia truck accident lawyers of Arrington Schelin handle the hard work of putting together your case and pursuing justice for you. You can trust our seasoned team to:

  • Investigate the accident and secure all available evidence to determine how the crash happened and who can be held at fault for your injuries
  • Document your expenses and losses to ensure we pursue a full financial recovery for you
  • Aggressively negotiate for maximum compensation in a truck accident settlement
  • Take your case to trial if litigation is necessary to secure the full recovery you need and deserve

If you have suffered injuries in a truck accident caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness, contact Arrington Schelin now. We are here to listen to you and advocate for your best interests. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.