Hours of Service Violations by Truckers
The trucking industry is heavily regulated by both the federal and state governments. The federal government has established a number of guidelines called the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and those regulations govern a number of aspects of the trucking industry that affect safety. Such areas of regulation include drug and alcohol usage and testing, driver qualifications, and inspection, maintenance and repair of trucks. A significant area of regulation deals with hours of service violations by truckers.
The hours of service violations for truckers provisions are there because the government recognizes that a common cause of trucking accidents is driver fatigue. Drivers face pressure from their trucking companies to complete their runs as quickly as possible, and many drivers seek financial incentives by completing the maximum amount of miles and runs.
The government implemented a number of hours of service rules in the FMCSR to prevent drivers from over-exerting themselves and creating a danger from falling asleep or driving in a fatigued state. These rules dictate when and how long a driver can drive his or her tractor trailer.
The FMCSR contains four main hours of service rules that apply to truckers operating tractor trailers:
- The 11 Hour Rule. A truck driver may drive a maximum of 11 hours after taking an off-duty break of at least 10 consecutive hours. A trucker could violate this, of course, by not taking a full 10 hour break between shifts or by continuing to drive for more than 11 hours.
- The 14 Hour Rule. A truck driver has a window of 14 hours after he or she starts his or her shift to drive. In that 14-hour period, the truck driver is allowed to drive a maximum of 14 hours. The shift must be preceded by a 10 consecutive hour break. Time that is spent off-duty does not extend the 14-hour period.
- Required 30 minute rest breaks. A big rig driver may drive only for 8 consecutive hours before taking a 30 minute, off-duty break. After taking the 30 minute break, a trucker can then drive for another three hours before having to stop per the 11 Hour Rule. There are limited exceptions for this rule, such as for certain drivers who drivers within a 100 air-mile radius of his or her normal work reporting location.
- The 60/70 Hour Limit. In addition to what can be thought of as “daily” rules above, the FMCSR also has a “weekly” limit for driving hours. This weekly limit can come in two forms, either a 60 hour driving limit during any 7 consecutive days or a 70 hour driving limit during any 8 consecutive days. These rules depend on whether the trucking company operates trucks only six days a week or instead operates all seven. For companies that operate six days a week, a driver may not exceed 60 hours of driving during a period of 7 consecutive days. For companies that operate seven days a week, a driver may not exceed 70 hours in 8 consecutive days.
Once a driver has hit their 60/70 hour limit, they may not drive again until they have dropped below the 60 or 70 hours during a consecutive 7 or 8 day period. A truck driver can do a “restart” of their 60/70 clock by taking 34 consecutive hours off duty, which is known as a 34-Hour Restart.
If you were injured in a tractor trailer accident, it is important to hire an attorney who understands the hours of service rules for truckers and to identify hours of services violations by truckers that may have caused an accident. For information about tractor trailer accidents, contact experienced Virginia truck accident lawyer Robert E. Byrne, Jr. at (434) 817-3100 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer free consultations, and we will not charge any fees unless we receive a recovery.