America’s highways are busier than ever, and much of that traffic is semi-tractor-trailers and other commercial motor vehicles. Big commercial trucks are impossible to avoid anymore. No matter the time of day or night, it’s common to have a truck in front, a truck behind, and one or two more in the adjacent lanes when driving on the interstate. It’s understandable that a person may get a little nervous with all the trucks on the roads. After all, how do we know that the drivers behind the wheel of all these big rigs are getting enough rest, staying alert, and paying attention to the road and traffic conditions?
In an effort to reduce highway fatalities and injuries, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has issued a series of safety regulations applicable to all commercial drivers, motor carriers, and motor vehicles. One category of regulations, known as Hours of Service, or “HOS” for short, establishes maximum periods of time that drivers are allowed to be driving and on duty, and mandates certain periods of off-duty or rest time between shifts. HOS regulations are designed to avoid accidents caused by commercial driver fatigue.
In general, a driver hauling only property (as opposed to passengers), is allowed to drive a maximum of 11 total hours after being off-duty for 10 or more consecutive hours. The driver must take a 30-minute break if (s)he has driven for eight cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption. A driver hauling passengers may drive a maximum of 10 hours after being off duty for 8 consecutive hours.
During a work shift, a commercial driver will sometimes be considered “on duty” even if not driving. Some examples of “on-duty but not driving” occur when: the truck is being loaded or unloaded; the driver is performing safety inspections or repairs of the vehicle; or the driver is performing work for the motor carrier or work for compensation from any source. A property-carrying driver may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, even if (s)he hasn’t reached the 11-hour driving maximum or was off-duty for part of that 14-hour period. The driver must be off-duty for 10 hours before driving again. Passenger-carrying drivers are not allowed to drive beyond 15 hours after coming on duty and must be off-duty for 8 hours before driving again.
In addition to these rules governing the amount of time that one can drive during a given shift, a driver may not exceed 60 hours total driving time over 7 consecutive days, or 70 hours total driving time over 8 consecutive days. Certain exceptions also apply, including instances of unforeseeable adverse driving conditions, like unexpected snow, fog, or sleet, and for drivers who operate their trucks exclusively within a 150-mile radius of their work reporting location.
Violation of HOS regulations can be used as evidence of negligence against the truck driver or the motor carrier for failing to properly train or monitor its driver’s hours, particularly in cases of driver inattention or fatigue. If you or a family member is injured in a crash caused by a commercial vehicle, you need knowledgeable truck crash attorneys who can investigate and analyze the facts to determine whether HOS or other Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations were violated. The attorneys at Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima can help you recover the compensation you need and deserve when you’ve suffered a catastrophic injury or loss of a loved one in a truck crash.