Truck drivers must follow certain rules and regulations mandated by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). One of these rules governs how long drivers are allowed to spend behind the wheel. Hours-of-service rules exist not just for the safety of other drivers on the road, but also for the safety of the truck drivers.
Here is a breakdown of the general guidelines for truck driver hours-of-service:
- Drivers are allowed to drive up to 11 hours, and no more than 14 in a duty period
- By the eighth hour of duty, drivers are required to take a 30-minute break
- Drivers cannot extend their 14-hour duty period using breaks or stops
- A driver's seven-day work period can be restarted once every 168-hour work week by taking 34 consecutive hours off, with two consecutive periods from 1am to 5am.
- Drivers must begin each duty period with 10 hours off-duty
- Drivers may not work more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days.
Driver Fatigue and Truck Drivers
One of the reasons for hours-of-service rules is to reduce driver fatigue, a factor in many truck accidents.
An FMCSA study once found that 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers were considered fatigued at the time of their crash. That may sound like a low percentage, but there are tens of millions of truckers making their way across the country every year. The National Sleep Foundation has stated that driving drowsy is very similar to driving drunk. Like alcohol, sleep deprivation leads to slower reaction times, decreased awareness, impaired judgment and an increased risk of crashing.
Despite strict hours of service rules, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that surveys indicate that many truckers violate the rules. They work and drive longer than permitted, and some record inaccurate data in their driver logs. Roadside checks in 2014 found more than 280,000 drivers either had out of date or inaccurate logs - and those are just the ones that were found and reported.
If you suffer injury as the result of a drowsy truck driver, discuss your case with a truck accident attorney.