Fatigue and Truck Driver Hours of Service Rules

Fatigue is a serious safety issue for truckers. It is for that reason new regulations are in full effect as of July 1, 2013. Mandated by the Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the truck driver hours-of-service (HOS) rules dictate the amount of time that drivers may spend behind the wheel or on-duty over a specific period of time.

Overview of the Hours of Service Rules

Under the FMCSA and DOT, driving hours must not exceed 11 hours after the trucker has spent 10 consecutive hours off duty. Additionally, drivers cannot drive past the 14th hour after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty.

Drivers cannot drive beyond 60 or 70 hours in seven- or eight-day periods, respectively. A restart is allowed only after being off duty for at least 34 consecutive hours. The new rules stipulate that this must include two night periods of sleep between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. And drivers can only use the 34 restart once each week.

Drivers who use the sleeper berth provision must spend at least eight consecutive hours in it. Additionally, drivers must spend a separate two-hour consecutive time period in the sleeper berth or off duty. Drivers could use a combination of sleeper berth and off-duty time, too.

Finally, during the first eight hours of on-duty driving time, truckers must take a 30-minute break. Failing to abide by these rules could result in serious consequences.

Violations of the Hours of Service Rules

One penalty for violating HOS regulations could include putting a driver out of service, depending on the specific rule that was broken. In some cases the trucker might be forced to get the adequate amount of rest or sleep time required.

Drivers and truck companies could even face heavy fines if they violate the FMCSA and DOT driving hours rule. Truckers could receive as much as $2,750 for each offense and trucking companies could be fined as much as $11,000 per violation.

Impact of Fatigue on Truckers

Receiving adequate rest is a must for those truckers who travel long distances for extended periods of time. Not getting an adequate amount of sleep is a significant issue. Truckers should aim to get enough hours of sleep to ensure they are fully alert behind the wheel. But many receive very little sleep on the road.

The Driver Fatigue and Alertness Study (DFAS) found that drivers’ ideal hours of sleep was a little more than seven hours a night, though many drivers in the study got only about five hours. The researchers, who evaluated four driving schedules and 80 drivers in the mid-1990s, also noted that episodes of drowsiness were a greater risk from midnight to 6 a.m. compared to other time periods.

Get Legal Help to Pursue a Truck Accident Claim

Although truckers are sometimes the ones who blatantly disregard the HOS rules, pressure from employers and shippers who want loads delivered by a certain time could also contribute. The manner in which delivery and pickup schedules are set can be a significant factor. Or it may be that a trucking company demands the trucker to go past the amount of time allowable behind the wheel.

No matter the circumstances, these are serious violations that evidence may relate to the cause of an accident. An attorney can help accident victims collect proper evidence and documentation to establish negligence and determine which parties hold liability for the accident and the victim’s damages.

Contact an attorney at Gacovino, Lake & Associates for legal assistance and to discuss the details of the case. Call us at 800-246-4878 to set up a free initial consultation with an attorney to review legal options available.

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