Commercial truck drivers work hard to deliver a wide variety of food goods, other items and materials to retailers and companies all across the country. However, when commercial truckers work too hard—and for too long—they can become drowsy and inattentive, which puts others on the road at serious risk. In fact, statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) show that fatigued or impaired driving contributes significantly to the more than 129,000 accidents involving large commercial vehicles that occur each year on roadways in the United States.
In an effort to reduce serious injuries and fatalities caused by such accidents, the FMCSA implemented hours of service rules to restrict the amount of time that commercial drivers can spend on the road without taking a break. Though these rules went into full effect in July 2013, regrettably, accidents involving fatigued truckers continue to claim lives. Read on to learn more about truck accidents caused by hours of service rule violations, as well as what you can do if you were injured.
What Are Hours of Service Rules?
First introduced in December 2011 and published in the Federal Register, the FMCSA hours of service rules impose safety limits, such as:
- No more than 60 hours of driving time in a seven-day period.
- No more than 70 hours of driving in any consecutive eight-day period.
- No more than 14 hours of driving time in any 24-hour period.
- A maximum driving time of 11 hours following 10 consecutive off-duty hours.
- Mandated 30-minute breaks for each eight hours spent on the road.
- Additionally, drivers of commercial tractor-trailers with sleeping berths have mandated eight-hour sleeping breaks and two-hour resting breaks every 24 hours.
These hours of service rules specifically apply to commercial drivers who carry property, rather than drivers who carry passengers.
How Irresponsible Drivers Skirt the Rules
Commercial truck drivers are required to carefully log their hours and these logs must match the FMCSA's hours of service regulations. Unfortunately, unscrupulous drivers and trucking companies have found a number of ways to get around these important safety requirements. Research performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) uncovered various discrepancies—and even outright falsifications—in many commercial driver logbooks, which some industry insiders have dubbed “comic books,” due to their inaccuracy.
So, how do drivers and companies skirt the rules? While tactics are as varied as the drivers themselves, some common methods include outright and deliberate falsifications, as well as counting on-duty time as break or rest periods. For example, the hours of service requirements limit all on-duty activities, but instead of taking the mandated rest or sleep breaks, drivers may spend that time doing on-duty activities, such as loading or unloading the commercial vehicle. This often results in drivers who are more exhausted and far less focused.
Fortunately, there are a number of penalties in place to discourage this type of unsafe behavior. Drivers who violate hours of service rules—and the companies they work for—may be held liable if the violations are discovered.
Were You Injured in a Truck Accident?
If you were seriously injured in an accident with a commercial truck, you may be forced to live with those physical scars for the rest of your life. However, thanks to laws that allow accident victims to sue negligent truckers, you may be able to receive financial compensation for medical bills, damage to your vehicle, lost wages and loss of earning potential, and even physical pain and emotional suffering.
A seasoned personal injury attorney with experience handling truck accident cases can help you strengthen your claim and pursue a financial award that's fair. A skilled legal team can also help uncover forms of negligence that would be difficult for accidents victims to spot on their own—such as hours of service violations—by pouring over the commercial driver's service logs, weigh station records, toll and gas station receipts, and testimony to identify discrepancies. Let the knowledgeable attorneys with the Packard Law Firm fight for you. Contact our office in San Antonio today for a no-cost case evaluation or to request a free copy of our book, 20 Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Car Wreck Case.