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How the Hours of Service Impact Trucking Accidents

By DiBella Law Offices on July 15, 2020

It is widely known that driver fatigue is a serious issue in the trucking industry as more and more accidents are reported on the nightly news. Every driver understands that a lack of sleep can lead to a deadly collision, but this matter is exasperated for truck drivers who travel long-distances without breaks. To limit the dangerous practice of driving while tired, federal regulations enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have imposed hours of service for commercial truck drivers. However, strict fines and legal action have not completely eliminated it, and truck drivers are still likely to be involved in serious or fatal accidents on Massachusetts’s roadways.

What Are the FMCSA’s Hours of Service Regulations?

Among the various trucking regulations drivers and their parent companies must abide by, the hours of service is one of the most important. Proper rest is key to avoiding a deadly accident, yet drivers are still pressured to skip breaks and violate the regulations in order to complete orders in a timely manner.

According to the FMCSA, the hours of service rules include:

  • 11-hour driving limit: A driver may only operate a truck for a maximum of 11 hours after ten consecutive hours off duty.
  • 14-hour limit: A truck driver may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty following ten consecutive hours off duty. This 14-hour limit is not extended by off-duty time.
  • Mandatory rest breaks: A truck driver is not permitted to drive unless eight hours or fewer have passed since the end of the last off-duty period or a sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes. In other words, when eight hours of straight driving time are approaching, drivers are required to pull over and take a sleeper berth rest break for a minimum of half an hour.
  • 60/70-hour limit: Commercial truck drivers are not allowed to drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A new 7/8 day on-duty period may only be started after 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
  • Sleeper berth provision: FMCSA states that drivers using a sleeper berth must take at least eight hours in the sleeper berth. However, they are allowed to split this time into two sleeper berth periods, provided neither period is less than two hours long.

Drivers must thoroughly log break hours in a daily log or electronically through the vehicle’s black box. If a driver is involved in an accident, the authorities can then review the log to determine if the driver violated the hours of service.

Hours of Service Violations and Accidents

Driver fatigue and other forms of impaired driving are major contributing factors to deadly truck accidents. Truck drivers operating big-rigs for more than eight hours are twice as likely to crash, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

The FMCSA designed the hours of service regulations to help resolve the problem of truck driver fatigue, but they only work if drivers and their employers follow the rules. Truck drivers can make more money when they deliver their loads faster, and trucking companies may encourage their drivers to push the hours of service limits in order to maximize their own profits.

Violations of hours of service regulations are a form of driver negligence and may also make the driver’s parent company liable in an accident. If you were involved in a truck accident with a driver who was not operating strictly within these requirements, you might have a claim for compensation for your losses.

Proving Hours of Service Violations

A thorough investigation conducted by an experienced Burlington truck accident lawyer can help reveal hours of service violations and use it to demonstrate driver’s negligence. The investigation may involve gathering data from various sources, including:

  • Truck black box data
  • Cell phone records
  • Toll tickets
  • Receipts and debit/credit card statements
  • Video footage from intersections, security, and toll booth cameras

If you have been injured in a collision with a negligent truck driver who violated the hours of service, contact DiBella Law Offices, P.C. to speak to a knowledgeable legal team. Our founding attorney is a nationally recognized trial lawyer with the knowledge, skills, and resources to determine liability and effectively pursue the compensation you deserve. Call us at (978) 327-5140 to discuss your case.

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Posted in: Truck Accidents

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