Authored by Allan Siegel
Given the sheer size of commercial vehicles and their overwhelming potential
to cause serious harm during traffic accidents, various state and federal
government agencies place an emphasis on regulating the trucking industry
in order to protect public safety and reduce the likelihood of preventable
accidents. While there are numerous regulations surrounding the trucking
industry, some of the most important involve those relating to tired truck drivers.
In recent years, several studies have found that driving tired is as dangerous
– if not more so – than driving under the influence of alcohol
or drugs. In fact, researchers with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
found that one in six – or nearly 17% – of all fatal car accidents
are caused by tired drivers. Upon studying the effects of motorists'
driving behaviors while sober, intoxicated, and tired, researchers found
that, generally, a lack of sleep had more dangerous effects.
When a tired driver steps behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle, they
pose an even greater danger to public safety. When one also considers
the fact that 18-wheelers, semi-trucks and other freight bearing vehicles
are massive machines that can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds, are slow
to stop, and have an inability to quickly maneuver, it becomes clear that
there is an elevated need to take precautions and ensure that no tired
truck driver gets on the road.
FMCSA Federal Regulations
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) – a subsidiary
of the U.S. Department of Transportation – is the primary federal
agency that oversees the trucking industry. The FMCSA enforces hundreds
of various laws and regulations for commercial carriers that engage in
interstate commerce, including regulations that ensure regular vehicle
maintenance, proper freight and cargo securement, and driver safety, among
others. When it comes to tired drivers, the FMCSA has established a number
of specific laws that focus on mandatory rest periods and restrictions
on the time drivers are allowed to spend behind the wheel.
As of July 1, 2013, the FMCSA has updated their hours-of-service rules
in an effort to further combat the dangers of tired drivers in both the
commercial freight carrying industry and the commercial passenger carrying
industry. The following FMCSA Hours-of-Service Regulations apply to commercial,
freight carrying vehicles than weigh more than 10,000 pounds and vehicles
that transport hazardous materials requiring placards:
11-Hour Driving Limit – Drivers may only drive for a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive
hours off duty.
14-Hour Limit – Drivers may not drive beyond their 14th consecutive hour on duty. Off duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.
Rest Breaks – Drivers are permitted to drive if 8 hours or less have passed
since the end of their last off-duty or sleeper-berth break of at least
60/70-Hour Limit – This rule prohibits drivers from driving after 60/70 hours on
duty in 7/8 consecutive days. 7/8 consecutive day periods may be restarted
if at least 34 consecutive hours off duty are taken. They must include
two periods from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. home terminal time and can only
be used once per week from the beginning of a previous restart.
Sleeper Berth – Drivers using sleeper berth provisions must take at least 8 consecutive
hours in the sleeper berth and a separate 2 consecutive hours either in
the sleeper berth, off duty, or a combination of both.
While Hours-of-Service regulations can be dense, they essentially boil
down to the fact that
no tired truck driver should be on the road. When truck drivers and / or trucking companies fail to comply with these
regulations and cause harm during accidents, they can be held liable for
the damages victims suffer. With
more than 85 years of combined experience, our Maryland personal injury attorneys have handled a number of truck
accident cases. As a result, we possess a strong working knowledge of
the many trucking regulations in place – including FMCSA Hours-of-Service
rules – and the ways in which to secure and present evidence that
truck drivers and trucking companies failed to uphold their duties to
keep others safe from preventable harm.
If you or your loved one has been injured in a trucking accident, place
your trust in a firm that has the experience, the resources, and the unyielding
determination to hold drivers and trucking companies accountable for their
negligence. Learn more about the potential merits of your claim and the
ways in which our Maryland truck accident lawyers can fight for the compensation
you deserve. Contact Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. today.