Federal Hours of Service Rules Are Intended to Prevent Commercial Driver Fatigue

Driving while fatigued, also known as drowsy driving, can be dangerous for any motorist, whether behind the wheel of a cute sedan or a mammoth big-rig vehicle. Unfortunately, due to the sheer size and weight of commercial trucks, fatigue-related accidents involving these vehicles tend to be particularly dangerous, and often deadly. Statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)—which is the federal agency tasked with issuing and enforcing safety regulations for Trucks Lined Up at a Rest Stopcommercial vehicles—showed that, in a single year, impaired or fatigued driving played a significant role in more than 129,120 traffic accidents that involved large trucks or buses.

In an effort to reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities caused by commercial driver fatigue, the FMCSA issued rules, known as hours of service rules, that limit the amount of time a truck driver can spend on the road in any given day or week. Originally published in the Federal Register on December 27, 2011, these rules went into full effect on July 1, 2013.

Truck accident victims who attempt to pursue compensation from commercial drivers or trucking companies whose hours of service violations resulted in a crash may face an uphill battle. Having the representation of a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney can help.

Why Are Hours of Service Rules Necessary?

Research conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that many commercial truck accidents that were caused by driver fatigue could have been prevented. Unfortunately, the demands on truck drivers often discourage or prevent them getting adequate rest which, in turn, endangers them and everyone else on the road. IIHS studies also found discrepancies or deliberate falsifications in driver logbooks, suggesting that the commercial trucking industry was unwilling or unable to regulate itself on this front. As a result, federal regulations were necessary to increase motorist safety.

Hours of Service Regulations

The FMCSA's Hours of Service rules limit commercial drivers who carry property to:

  • No more than 11 hours of driving time after 10 consecutive hours of being off duty
  • 14 hours of driving in a 24-hour period, regardless of off-duty time
  • No more than 60 hours of driving time in a consecutive 7-day period
  • A maximum of 70 hours of driving time in a consecutive 8-day period

In addition to specifying maximum driving allowances, the FMCSA Hours of Service rules also require commercial drivers to take regular breaks to rest and ensure their alertness on the road. For example, drivers must:

  • Take a mandated 30-minute break every 8 hours they're on the road
  • Commercial tractor-trailer drivers whose vehicles are equipped with a sleeping berth are required to take an 8-hour sleeping break, as well as a separate 2-hour resting break for every 24-hour period they're on the road

Were You Injured in a Truck Accident?

If you or someone you love was injured in a truck accident caused by a fatigued commercial driver, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries. However, truck accident injury cases where hours of service rule violations are at play can be challenging, particularly if the commercial driver or trucking company attempts to falsify driver logbooks in an effort to avoid penalties. It's important to have an experienced personal injury attorney by your side to help you through each and every step of the process when you're pursuing compensation for medical bills, property damage to your vehicle, lost wages if your injuries prevent you from working, or physical pain and emotional suffering related to the truck accident.

Contact the knowledgeable legal team at the Packard Law Firm for a free, no-obligation consultation, or to request a complimentary copy of the book, 20 Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Car Wreck Case. Our attorneys have handled numerous truck accident cases just like yours and are ready to help you obtain any damages to which you may be entitled. Call our San Antonio law office today for more information.