Hours of Service Requirement for Truck Drivers Under Federal Law
Every single time an accident involving a truck occurs, there are bound to be casualties. Going through the U.S Department of Transportation’s Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts, It can be deduced that there were over 1,000 truck accidents resulting in death and even more resulting in severe injuries.
These statistics show just how serious truck accidents are and how often it occurs. These alarming numbers are largely due to the fact that the average truck is 75 inches tall, 233 inches long, 79 inches wide and weighs 5000lbs more than a regular car. And although this is just an average estimation, it is very obvious that a car stands no chance against a truck.
Luckily, there are several rules and regulations put in place under federal law that guide truck drivers and trucking accidents. A very important aspect of these regulations affects Hour of Service requirements for truck drivers. These are generally regulations controlling how long a truck driver should be behind the wheel.
If you have been involved in a truck accident in Georgia, you need an attorney who is well aware of the rules and regulations. And can utilize this knowledge in order to get you the full compensation you deserve.
Our personal injury lawyers at The Ferguson Law Group are experts at handling personal injury claims like this one. We have the required knowledge and expertise needed to get you full compensation. We have helped several residents obtain a positive outcome in their truck accident claim.
What Federal Regulations Affect Truck Drivers?
Due to the significant advantage a truck has over a regular vehicle, it can quickly become hazardous in the hands of an unqualified or unfit driver. This is one of the major reasons why there are federal laws guiding truck drivers and trucking companies.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) is a set of rules and regulations formulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Transportation. As previously mentioned, these regulations cover a wide area of responsibilities for truck drivers, one of which is the Hours of Service Regulations.
What are Hours of Service Regulations?
If a truck driver is put in a position where he has to spend long hours on the same spot, driving; He can slip into a hypnotic state known among truck drivers as drowsy driving, especially if the driver has not had sufficient intervals of rest.
Drowsy driving is often the cause of many truck accidents that occur on federal and state roads. So, in order to protect truck drivers from themselves and other road users, the FMCSA has placed compulsory limits on the amount of driving hours for commercial truck drivers.
Trucking companies are also included in these regulations as they are forbidden by law from urging truck drivers to sacrifice their breaks in order to meet deadlines. The maximum duty limits for commercial truck drivers are as follows;
14-hour driving window: Truck drivers are only allowed to be on duty for 14 hours and are not to drive more than 11 hours within this 14-hour window. Immediately this window elapses, a truck driver has to go off duty for 10 consecutive hours and mustn’t drive again until these hours are up.
30-minutes break: A truck driver is mandated to take a 30-minute break within the first 8 hours of their shift, and another in the last leg of the shift. These break times can be used for eating, resting, or any off-duty activity and must be included in the 14-hour window.
Weekly Maximum Driving Limits: Truck Drivers, depending on whether or not their trucking company operates every day, are limited to 60 – 70 hours of duty in a period of seven to eight days. If the company operates every day of the week, drivers would be on duty for 70 hours in 8 consecutive days. If a trucking company does not operate every day of the week, truck drivers would be on duty for 60 hours in 7 consecutive days.
34-Hour “Restart”: When a truck driver has reached their maximum weekly limits, there is a way to restart the clock while complying with the FMSCA hours of service regulations. If the driver takes 34 consecutive hours completely off duty, the clock restarts and the driver is fit for the next 60 – 70 hours. As long as the 34 hours include at least two nights of sleep from 1 am to 5 am. This option is not compulsory but it makes it easier for both truck drivers and trucking companies to hit their targets.
What Exempts A Truck Driver from These HOS Regulations?
Contrary to popular opinion, these federal laws do not only apply to semi-trucks or other very large trucks. Thus, any truck driver who travels interstate, uses a truck for commercial purposes, and drives trucks with heavyweight ratings are automatically included under the federal HOS regulations.
However, some truck drivers who drive vehicles that weigh less than 10,000 pounds or who only drive within the state may be exempted from federal regulations. However, they are not exempted from state regulations.
This makes no difference in Georgia, Atlanta as the state has adopted the FMSCA regulations as state law. In addition to the above, trucking regulations may apply to any truck that meets the following requirements.
- A truck with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 10,001 pounds or more;
- A truck that carries more than 8 passengers;
- A truck that carries heavy cargo or hazardous materials.
- Consequences of HOS Violations
Violating hours of service regulations can lead to different penalties for both the driver and the trucking company. If no accident has occurred due to this blatant disregard, some of the following penalties may be administered:
- Truck drivers who are found guilty of violation may be detained on the spot until they have accumulated enough off-duty time to be back in accordance with the HOS regulations.
- In states like Georgia who have adopted the federal laws as state laws, fines may be issued to offending drivers.
- Sometimes, they may be charged at both local and state levels.
- The FMSCA may also heap penalties on the offending driver or trucking company. These fines may range from $1,000 to $ 11,000 per violation depending on how serious the violation is.
- If a truck driver has accrued a pattern of violations. Their carrier’s safety rating can be downgraded.
- It is possible for federal criminal charges to be brought against carriers, trucking companies, or truck drivers who knowingly and or willfully disregarded the regulations.’
- Apart from these consequences, violating the hours-of-service requirements can put everyone on the road at risk.
Many truck-related accidents can be linked to driver fatigue and drowsiness. Anytime an accident occurs due to the tiredness of the driver, it is very often a sign of HOS violations.
When a truck has been involved in an accident, several investigations will be carried out to determine the cause of the accident. Truck drivers and commercial trucking companies are legally required to keep records of how well they stick to their hours-of-service regulations. This will include logbooks, electronic records, cellphone data, GPS, Pre and post-trip inspections, bills of loading, and receipts.
If you have been injured due to the negligence of a truck driver, do not hesitate to reach out to a qualified personal injury attorney. This is so that your case may be accurately reviewed and the right courses of action taken.
Reach Out to Our Qualified Personal Injury Attorneys
At The Ferguson Law Group, we are more than able and willing to fight for your cause. Trust us with your trucking accident case, we get results.