Commercial truck drivers must follow strict state and federal regulations while operating their vehicles. These rules are in place to ensure the safety of these drivers and the motorists they share the road with. One of the most important rules is known as hours of service, which establishes limits on the number of hours a driver can operate without taking a break. Unfortunately, not all drivers follow hours of service regulations, leading to serious collisions.
FMCSA Regulations for Hours of Service
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the agency responsible for overseeing commercial truck operations in the United States. Its hours of service rule limits the amount of time a truck driver can drive during a single shift and is in place to combat driver fatigue.
These rules are as follows.
- Drivers that carry property may drive a maximum of 11 hours after spending 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Proper-carrying drivers may not drive more than 14 consecutive hours after beginning their shift. They must take at least 10 hours off duty before driving for 14 hours.
- When a driver has driven for 8 cumulative hours, he or she must take a break for at least 30 consecutive minutes.
- A driver cannot drive more than 60 to 70 hours over 7 to 8 consecutive days. A driver can restart a 7 or 8 day period after he or she takes at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.
- If a driver has a sleeper berth in his or her vehicle, he or she can divide his or her required 10-hour off-duty period. One off-duty period must be at least 2 hours long and the other must be at least 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth.
- If a driver encounters adverse driving conditions, he or she can extend his or her 11-hour driving limit and 14-hour maximum limit by up to 2 hours.
Why Is the Hours of Service Rule Important?
It can be very dangerous for the operator of a large semi-truck to fall asleep behind the wheel, and the hours of service rule prevents these accidents from happening. According to FMCSA regulations, a commercial truck can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. These trucks are much larger and heavier than the average passenger car, and collisions between the two types of vehicles can be catastrophic.
However, truck drivers often face pressure to meet tight deadlines. They may violate these rules and spend an unsafe amount of time driving their vehicles. As a result, a driver can fall asleep behind the wheel and lose control of his or her vehicle, leading to disastrous accidents.
Fatigued driving can be extremely dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 91,000 crashes in 2017 involved drowsy drivers. These accidents contribute to an estimated 50,000 injuries and 800 deaths each year. Unfortunately, hours of service violations can lead to catastrophic accidents.
Legal Options for Truck Accident Victims
If you are in an accident with a drowsy truck driver, you have the right to hold the driver responsible for your losses. Through a truck accident lawsuit, you can recover compensation for the economic and non-economic damages you sustained due to his or her negligence. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your accident, you may also hold the trucking company liable.
In these situations, you need a truck accident attorney on your side. A lawyer can represent you in your lawsuit against the negligent driver, securing the compensation you need to heal. Contact a Bakersfield truck accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.