Rules that regulate truck drivers began to be enacted as early as 1939. These rules are designed to increase safety and decrease trucker fatigue.
What Federal Agency Promulgates the Rules?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration promulgates the rules for truck drivers and trucking companies. This agency is a division of the United States Department of Transportation.
What types of Trucks do the Rules Apply to?
The rules apply to commercial vehicles. Generally, there are three different ways that a vehicle can qualify as a commercial vehicle.
- The vehicle weighs over 10,000 pounds.
- The vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating or combination weight is greater than 10,000 pounds.
- The vehicle is transporting hazardous materials.
What are the Applicable Rules?
The rules layout several limits that each commercial vehicle must comply with. First, truck drivers must comply with the 14- hour driving window. The 14-hour driving window allows truck drivers to work in 14-hour windows. During the 14-hour time frame the driver is allowed to drive for up to 11 hours. The remainder of the time is supposed to be dedicated to rest and breaks. This requirement is designed to help the truck drivers maintain a consistent sleeping pattern.
Next, truck drivers must comply with the 30-minute break requirement. This requirement mandates that each truck driver must take at least one thirty minute break during the 11 hours that they are allowed to drive in the 14-hour window. This break requirement is designed to split the 11 hours into segments that are less than eight hours long.
Recently there was a push for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to rescind the 30-minute break requirement. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance claimed that the requirement should be removed for three reasons. First, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance feels that the rule is too hard to enforce. Also, the commercial vehicle safety alliance believes that the requirement encourages drivers to falsify their drivers log. Lastly, the alliance claims that the rule did not actually positively impact highway safety.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration decided to uphold the regulation even though there was push to eliminate it. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration responded to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s arguments by stating that the requirement is not difficult to enforce and that it does contribute to highway safety.
In addition, drivers cannot drive more than 60 hours in a seven-day time period or 70 hours in a eight-day time period. The seven days does not necessarily have to be Sunday-Monday. This rule is known as the 60/70-hour duty limit.
Lastly, there is a 34- hour restart rule. Drivers may restart the 60/70 hour limit if they go off duty for 34 straight hours. This restart may only be used once a week.
If you are interested in learning more about the requirements please visit https://cms.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/hours-service/summary-hours-service-regulations.
How are these requirements enforced?
Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring that their employees (truck drivers) are following the requirements that are detailed above. All truck drivers are required to keep a log detailing the amount of hours that they worked on a given day. This log must list the total number of hours that the truck driver was driving and it must also list the amount of hours that the truck driver was resting. Truck drivers also have to record information relating to resets.
After an accident has occurred, an investigator may refer to the log to determine if the driver was following the rest requirements. There could be consequences for the driver if the driver was not following the requirements.
If a Department of Transportation Officer determines that the truck driver was not following the requirement they could have to stop driving for a certain period of time as a punishment for failure to abide by the requirements.
The driver could also be sued in a personal injury suit. It is also possible that the trucker’s employer could be liable in a personal injury lawsuit under the doctrine of respondeat superior.
Why are these Requirements in Place?
These requirements are important for two main reasons. Truck drivers are susceptible to drowsy driving. The profession is known for having a crazy work schedule. The drivers are subject to the shipping industry’s demand. As such they may have a delivery time of 10:00 P.M. one day and 3:00 A.M. another day.
This crazy work schedule has developed into a culture for truck drivers. In fact, a common saying among truck drivers is “drive when you have to, sleep when you can.” Sadly, this phrase is a pretty accurate description how the average truck driver’s sleep pattern.
Due to long hours and weird sleep patterns truck drivers often find that fatigue is a big issue. The reason why truck drivers are at risk for drowsy driving is the constant fatigue they face because of their work.
Prevention of drowsy driving is one reason why commercial truck drivers have a rest requirement. Preventing drowsy driving in truckers is especially important because trucking accidents can lead to serious injuries for the truck driver as well as other people who are on the road.
The requirements are also in place because it is possible that trucking companies could be placed in a position to choose between profit and safety. This choice exists because trucking companies want to make as much money as possible, but they should not allow truck drivers to operate a vehicle while they are drowsy.
Unfortunately, truck drivers do not always follow the rules discussed above. When truck drivers do not follow these rules, they can cause accidents due to drowsy driving. Truck accidents often result in serious injuries for all of the individuals involved. If you have been injured in a truck accident, it is important for you to speak with an attorney. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to assist you in making a determination of whether you can file suit against the party that is responsible for your injuries.