Trucking “Hours of Service” Regulations: Driver Fatigue causes Hundreds of Truck Crashes Every Year

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in the United States enforces regulations governing the “Hours of Service” (HOS) for commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators. FMCSA first adopted rules for commercial truck driving operating hours in 1937. Studies have shown that 31% of large truck crash fatalities are caused by driver fatigue. These regulations are in place to enhance road safety and reduce fatigue-related accidents by limiting the number of hours a driver can operate a CMV. The HOS regulations apply to drivers of various types of commercial vehicles, such as trucks and buses, that are involved in interstate commerce. There are different HOS regulations for commercial vehicle which transport property (like tractor trailers) vs commercial vehicles which transport people (like buses). 

Truck crash attorneys routinely use a driver’s failure to comply with HOS regulations to provide liability in a truck crash case. Key components of the federal HOS regulations for property transport include:

1. **Maximum Driving Hours**: The regulations establish a maximum number of hours a driver can spend behind the wheel during a defined work period. The basic limits were as follows:

   – 11-Hour Driving Limit: A driver may drive a maximum of 11 consecutive hours after being off-duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.

   – 14-Hour Driving Window: Drivers cannot drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 hours off-duty.

   – 60/70-Hour Weekly Limits: Drivers can work up to 60 hours within a 7-day workweek or up to 70 hours within an 8-day workweek.

2. **Rest Breaks**: Drivers are required to take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of consecutive driving.

3. **Daily and Weekly Rest Periods**: A driver must have at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty in a 24-hour period. Additionally, they must take a 34-hour rest period, known as the “restart,” which includes two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. This allows drivers to reset their weekly on-duty clock.

4. **Record-Keeping**: Drivers are required to maintain detailed records of their HOS on logbooks or through Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) to ensure compliance.

5. **On-Duty and Off-Duty Definitions**: The regulations define what activities are considered on-duty and off-duty, as well as other classifications like “sleeper berth” time.

6. **Exceptions and Special Rules**: There are exceptions and special rules for various types of operations and situations, such as the short-haul exception for drivers operating within a specific radius of their work location.

7. **Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs)**: The FMCSA mandated the use of ELDs for recording HOS for most commercial motor carriers. ELDs automatically track driving hours and provide a more accurate and tamper-resistant method of recording HOS.

8. **Enforcement and Penalties**: The FMCSA enforces these regulations through inspections and audits. Violations of HOS rules can result in fines, penalties, and potential suspension of a driver’s commercial driver’s license.

Involved in a tractor-trailer crash? Fill out the form on this website, or call/text 888-353-1959 or 404-835-9660. 

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