Personal Injury Blog

Understanding Federal Trucking Laws - Hours-of-Service Regulations

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 30 minutes.
  • 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.