Fatigue is an issue that can affect any driver who works long hours, travels long distances, is exhausted, lacks sleep, or is taking prescription medication. Fatigued drivers have impaired judgment, delayed reaction times, and are at a greater risk of being involved in a serious crash. Although the majority of incidents occur between 4 pm and 8 pm, fatigue can be a contributing factor to crashes that occur at any time of day or night.
The federal government, through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets forth specific regulations that limit the number of hours a truck driver can operate a commercial motor vehicle. The primary purpose of these rules is to promote safety by reducing the number of fatigued drivers on the highway. We also investigate hours of service violations, daily driver logs, and other materials to ensure truck drivers and their employers comply with the FMCSA. Call a knowledgeable truck accident attorney to investigate whether a party violated these rules, leading to a crash.
The Need for Driver Time Regulations
Commercial truck drivers are often involved in crashes due to the amount of time that they spend behind the wheel – which can be compounded if they are pressured by their employers to deliver as quickly as possible. Fatigued driving or drowsy driving is a substantial factor in about 10-15% of motor vehicle collisions.
In order to combat that issue, the Federal Carrier Safety Administration (FCSA) implements hours of service requirements that limit or restrict the number of hours per day and per week that long-haul truck drivers can drive without taking a break. Truck drivers and trucking companies must follow these driving time regulations or risk further liability, including punitive damages for a crash that occurs due to fatigued or drowsy driving.
Truck Driver Regulations
A driver may drive a maximum of eleven (11) hours after ten (10) consecutive hours off duty. There is also a rule stating that the driver may not drive beyond the fourteenth (14th) consecutive hour after coming on duty following ten (10) consecutive hours off duty. Drivers must also take a 30-minute break when they have driven for a period of eight (8) cumulative hours. They can do this by being off-duty, being on-duty but not driving, resting in the sleeper berth, or any combination of them.
There is also the 70-hour rule, which means a truck driver must stop after driving 60 hours across seven consecutive days, or after driving 70 hours across eight consecutive days. A driver may restart the cycle after 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
There are also sleeper berth provisions that state the driver may sleep for their required ten (10) hours off-duty period as long as one (1) off-duty period (whether in or out of the sleeper berth) is at least two (2) hours long and the other period involved at least seven (7) consecutive hours spent in the sleeper berth. If they are used together, they do not count against the fourteen (14)- hour driving window.
These hours-of-service rules are fairly complex and frequently manipulated by trucking companies and truck drivers who prioritize profits over safety. You need an experienced truck crash lawyer to assist in reviewing these hours-of-service issues. Our lawyers have decades of experience investigating and prosecuting these types of crashes on behalf of their clients. We have the network and resources to hire experienced, credible experts in the trucking industry to provide the necessary expert testimony in Court, if needed.
Exceptions and Modifications
There is also an adverse driving condition modification on the hours-of-service requirements: drivers are allowed to exceed the 11-hour and 14-hour driving limits by up to two hours when they encounter adverse driving conditions. Finally, there is a short haul exemption, which means the driver is exempt from the requirements of Section 395.8 and Section 395.11 if the following conditions are met:
- The driver operates within a 150 air-mile radius of the normal work reporting location
- The driver does not exceed the maximum duty period of 14 hours.
Truck drivers in Florence using the short-haul exception in Section 395.1 (e) (1) must report and return to the normal work reporting location within 14 consecutive hours and stay within a 150 air-mile radius of the work reporting location.
All of these rules are for drivers who carry cargo, not passengers. These rules are in place because the FMCS recognizes that driver fatigue is a major issue and because they know that many motor carriers will prioritize profits over safety, encouraging their drivers to work beyond the limits in order to move their goods to the intended destination.
Talk to a Florence Attorney About Truck Driving Time Regulations
Our team of experienced truck crash attorneys are ready to prosecute these cases on your behalf. The FMCSA hours-of-service rules are intended to protect truck drivers and the public from fatigued and drowsy driving. The rules can be complex but our team of lawyers have dedicated their careers to helping individuals and families who are victims of fatigued driving. Our team can hold trucking companies liable when they violate these federal laws. Reach out to a lawyer to review the facts of your case and discuss how driving time regulations for trucks in Florence played a part in your crash.