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Looking at the “Hours of Service” and their role in truck accident litigation

Driver fatigue, like distracted driving and drunken driving, is a serious safety problem on the roadway.  Like these other forms of driver impairment, driver fatigue prevents motorists from being fully present to the task of driving and puts other motorists at risk of harm. The risk is heightened when the driver is operating a commercial motor vehicle.

Commercial truck drivers are particularly at risk for driver fatigue, given the long hours on the road and the pressure the industry places on maintaining high productivity. Federal law addresses the problem of driver fatigue in the trucking industry through the so-called “Hours of Service” rules. These rules put daily and weekly driving limits on truck drivers and require a minimum amount of rest breaks. 

The Hours of Service are different depending on whether a driver is hauling passengers or property. On its website, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provides a brief summary of the rules, which we condense below. For property-carrying drivers, the rules are:

  • No driving for more than a total of 11 hours after coming on duty
  • No driving at all beyond the 14th consecutive hour on duty
  • Must take 10 consecutive hours off duty to restart work period
  • Must take, at a minimum, a 30-minute break after eight hours on duty
  • No driving after 60/70 hours on duty over 7/8 consecutive days. This period may be restarted after taking at least 34 hours off duty.
  • Truckers who choose to use a sleeper birth are required to take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, as well as 2 consecutive hours either off duty or in the sleeper berth.

All truck drivers, and their employers, are required to abide by these rules, and can be held accountable for failing to do so. In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this topic, and why it is important for those who have been seriously injured in a truck accident to work with an experienced personal injury attorney

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