Commercial truck accidents caused by fatigued drivers are a huge problem. So much so, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted hours of service regulations, which govern how many hours someone can drive without taking a break.
Unfortunately, truckers under pressure to deliver on time don't always follow these rules, whether by choice or by suggestion from transportation companies. If the operator who caused your large truck crash was too tired to drive, he may have been violating the federal hours of service. This infraction could help you prove the trucker’s negligence—and your right to compensation for your injuries following the truck accident.
What Are the Hours of Service Regulations For Truck Drivers?
The hours of service regulations are the federal mandated guidelines regarding how long a trucker driver can be on the road. The 2017 updates are in part 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. These rules apply to commercial on-the-road trucks and semis with trailers that are involved in interstate commerce, which involves transporting of goods across state lines. Truck operators who don't transport goods outside a certain state are involved in intrastate commerce, and must comply with state laws regarding the number of driving hours allowed.
Large truck and bus drivers have to follow three basic FMCSA rules. They govern not only the numbers of hours in a day a trucker can work, but also the number of consecutive days that he or she can drive. Here's a summary of the hours of service guidelines for property-carrying drivers:
- 14-hour work limit. During a 14-hour consecutive period, a trucker is only allowed to drive for a maximum of 11 hours if he's fresh off the road for at least 10 consecutive hours. As soon as a trucker goes on road, this 14-hour time limit begins running. Breaks for food and naps are included in this time period. Once the trucker has completed a 14-hour workday, he must rest for 10 hours or longer before driving or doing any other job-related duties.
- 11-hour driving rule. As discussed above, a trucker is only permitted to drive 11 hours in a 14-hour workday. Once he or she reaches this driving maximum, other off-road duties can be completed up to the 14 hours of planned work. A trucker isn't permitted to drive again until he or she has a full 10 consecutive hours off work.
- Rest breaks. Long-haul truckers must schedule off-duty or sleeper berth times of at least 30 minutes within the drive window, and can only drive if 8 hours or less have passed since the end last scheduled rest period. Meal breaks and other types of off-time qualify.
- 60/70-hour rule. The 60/70-hour rule limits the number of hours a driver can work during a seven or eight consecutive day period. The rule that must be followed will depend on whether the trucking company remains open seven days a week. If it is, the driver is allowed to work 70 hours in an eight-day period. When the trucking company is closed one or more days a week, a driver can only work 60 hours during a seven-day period. Once he reaches this maximum number of days of work, he's required to take off 34 or more consecutive hours before driving again.
Passenger-carrying drivers have slightly different driving rules, allowing for longer rest periods.
The Sleeper Berth Provision
FMCSA hours of service regulations state that truckers are allowed to use sleeper berths to meet their off-duty requirements—as long as the berth meets safety regulations. Truckers may opt to spend some or all of their 10-hour break at the end of their workday in the sleeper berth. In addition, any period of 8 consecutive hours or more in the berth isn't counted as part of the 14-hour window of work time. This can allow a trucker to extend the 14-hour limit before he has to take 10 hours off.
What Are the Truck Driver Record Keeping Requirements?
The hours of service guidelines require truckers to track their on-road and off-road hours and rest periods. Some newer commercial vehicles may be equipped with electronic logging devices that automatically record this information. If a semi or bus doesn't have this type of device, the operator is required to complete a daily logbook. This logbook must account for his activities for a full 24 hours each day. The logbook also includes off days, unless he has an exception for this.
Information from an electronic data device or daily logbook can help you prove that a truck driver’s violation of hours of service regulations was the cause of your wreck. Unfortunately, the written daily logbook may not be accurate, or could have been altered after your accident. You may need to compare the logbook to other records, such as receipts for meals, to determine how many hours the trucker really drove without a break.
Let Our Experienced Team Help Prove Your Claim
The hours of service regulations are complex, and you'll need the assistance of an experienced truck accident attorney to prove that violation of these rules and truck driver fatigue were the cause of your injuries. Our expert team will also act quickly to preserve evidence vital to your success.
If you were injured in an accident caused by a negligent commercial driver contact us online or call us directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.