Hours of Service Regulations
Driver fatigue is something most of us have experienced at one time or another. For commercial drivers, it is an occupational hazard. Long-haul truck drivers and charter bus drivers sit behind the wheel for hours on end; that’s how they make their living. Professional drivers may be well-trained and conscientious, but their long, punishing hours on-duty make them susceptible to driver fatigue and its consequences – lack of attention, impaired judgment, slowed reaction time, and falling asleep at the wheel.
The longer a person drives at a stretch, the more likely they are to make some mistake that causes an accident. Any crash can cause severe injury, but when a large commercial vehicle like a bus or an 18-wheeler hits a car, the results can be catastrophic or fatal for the occupants of the smaller automobile. Government agencies limit how long truckers can be on-duty and behind the wheel without taking a rest. Even drivers who comply with the law can find themselves overworked and overtired, but those who ignore safety regulations put others on the road at even greater risk. The Atlanta truck accident attorneys at Durham Law Group hold truck drivers and trucking companies accountable for any accidents they cause and the damage they inflict, especially those involving a violation of the industry’s hours of service regulations.
What Are the Hours of Service Regulations for Truck Drivers?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the lead federal government agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles. Their mission is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. To that end, the FMCSA issues regulations covering all aspects of the trucking industry – driver requirements, drug and alcohol testing, vehicle standards and marking, and more. One of the most important sets of FMCSA safety regulations is the hours of service (HOS) regulations – how long commercial drivers can be on duty on a daily and weekly basis. In a nutshell, the HOS regulations for truck drivers are as follows:
- Truckers can be on duty for 14 consecutive hours following ten consecutive hours off duty. Out of those 14 hours of duty time, 11 can be spent driving. The ten hours off-duty doesn’t have to be consecutive if at least seven consecutive hours are spent in the big rig’s sleeper berth. Also, “adverse driving conditions” allow the driver to exceed the 11-hour and 14-hour limits by another two hours.
- Truckers cannot drive more than eight hours without taking a 30-minute break from driving. Nevertheless, that 30-minute period could be on-duty time and still count as a break so long as the trucker is not driving during that time.
- The FMCSA regs have an interesting definition of a trucker’s “workweek.” Truck drivers can lawfully work for 60 hours in a seven-day period or 70 hours in an eight-day period before being required to take 34 hours off to restart their “week.” Note that 34 hours equals less than a day and a half, giving truckers an unusual definition of a “weekend” as well.
Given how long truck drivers can lawfully be on duty and behind the wheel, it might come as a shock to learn that truckers routinely ignore the regulations and work and drive even longer than is allowable. Drivers are required to log their driving time, but many have been known to falsify these records to evade detection at an inspection station or after a crash. A seasoned Atlanta truck accident attorney at the Durham Law Group will know how to determine whether drowsy driving or fatigue played a role in the crash, whether the HOS regulations or other safety regulations were violated, and how to present this evidence to the insurance company or a jury so they realize the trucker’s negligence and liability to the accident victims. The trucking companies themselves may have played a role in actively pushing the driver to work past what is safe or meet unreasonable deadlines. Regardless of their role, motor carriers are responsible for the negligent actions of their employees and can be held liable in a drowsy-driving truck accident.
Help with Drowsy Truck Driver Accidents in Atlanta
If you or a family member has been injured in a drowsy truck driver accident in Atlanta, call the Durham Law Group at 404-845-3434 for a free consultation on your claim. We’ll take the time to find out what went wrong and why, and we’ll go to work right away securing significant compensation to help you deal with the harm done to you through no fault of your own.