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Reviewing truck driver hours-of-service regulations

For years, federal safety regulators have worked to develop more effective regulations to limit how long truck drivers can be behind the wheel. The goal is to help prevent truck accidents caused by drowsy driving.

This is important because, as studies have repeatedly shown, fatigued driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. In this post, we discuss the recent revision of the rules.

What do the regulations say?

In order to combat truck driver fatigue, federal regulations contain detailed rules on how long truckers can work. These hours-of-service regulations, as issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, include:

  • Not driving for more than eight hours without taking a break of at least 30 minutes
  • Not driving for more than 11 hours before needing to take 10 consecutive hours off
  • Not driving beyond the fourteenth hour after a 10-hour off-duty period
  • Not driving for more than 60-70 hours in a 7-8 day work week.

Exceptions to truck driver service regulations

There are certain exceptions to these regulations. For example, these rules only apply to truck drivers who use vehicles that have a gross weight of over 10,001 pounds. Also, per the FMCSA, an exception exists known as the 16-hour short-haul exception. Basically, this states that if a driver returns to his point of origin on the same day that he leaves, then he can extend the traditional 14-hour work window to 16 hours.

Goal of Improving Safety

The overall scope of the hours-of-service rules, however, remains firmly established. The earliest version of hours-of-service rules for commercial drivers dates back to 1937. In the years since then, they have been revised many times. It is a lengthy, laborious and often contentious process, seeking to balance flexibility for the trucking industry with efforts to reduce fatigue driving and therefore improve safety.

In 2018, the FMCSA began the most recent revision process.  Two year later, in May of this year, the FMSCA published a final rule to update the HOS standards that we have summarized briefly above.

What Does This Mean For You?

Be aware that when passing a truck you may be encountering a driver who presents a danger to you if he has been on the road longer than allowed by the regulations. Use extra caution and always leave an escape route open in case the truck driver veers into your lane. Keep a safe distance from behind the truck as well as when you are passing a truck and moving into his lane ahead.

Know Your Rights

If an accident has already occurred, contacting an attorney can help you be sure you know your legal rights to pursue compensation.