What are the FMCSA-Mandated Hours of Service Rule?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the hours truckers can operate their trucks. These regulations are outlined in Part 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. In short, a truck driver can only drive for:
- 11 hours, after 10 hours off duty if transporting property or;
- 10 hours after 8 hours off duty if transporting passengers.
A good summary of the restrictions is listed on the FMCSA website found here. The driver’s hours of service must be documented in a logbook.
California also restricts the hours a truck driver can operate their truck described in 13 CCR §1212.
Why Hours of Service Rules are Critical
The purpose of these laws is to keep tired truck drivers off the road, thereby reducing accidents. When any driver is fatigued, unsafe driving decisions are more likely to be made. Due to the size of trucks, there is a higher probability of causing catastrophic injuries when a driver is fatigued. Unfortunately, truck drivers have intense pressure to meet strict delivery demands, and the hours-of-service regulations may be ignored by drivers in order to get to their destinations on time.
How The New Sleeper Berth Rule Impacts Road Safety
A sleeper berth is a compartment in a commercial vehicle where drivers can rest or sleep, should they need to run long hauls. Recently, the FMCSA put into effect a new sleeper berth rule that can give drivers the flexibility to extend their driving hours by splitting the required 10 consecutive hour mandate into two shifts. Commercial drivers who want to use this provision may divide their sleeper berth time into two periods, as long as neither period is under two hours. With the high demand for truckers to make deliveries under strict deadlines, this may reduce driver fatigue and reduce the risk of a trucking accident. You can learn more about the new sleeper berth rule here.
RFTM Case Study
In one of our recent cases, we represented the children of a man who was killed in a catastrophic trucking accident on Highway 318 north of Las Vegas, Nevada. Two trucks owned and operated by the same trucking company were traveling southbound on the two-lane freeway. These truck drivers had begun their trip in Washington early in the morning, and the collision occurred at 6:15 p.m. The lead truck decided to pass four cars in front of him. Once the first truck driver passed the four cars, he radioed to his colleague behind him that it was safe to pass. The reality of the situation was very different.
As the second truck driver began to pass the cars ahead of him, the headlights from an oncoming car appeared in the same lane as the truck. At this point, the truck driver should have known he could not safely pass but continued to drive in the opposing lane of travel.
To avoid a head-on collision with the truck, the car swerved off the pavement into the desert and lost control. The out-of-control car then went back onto the road and crashed into another truck and car. The accident resulted in the death of our clients’ young father and serious injuries to others.
The truck drivers that passed unsafely and caused the accident then fled the scene. They were later pulled over by the Nevada Highway Patrol 63 miles south of the accident scene.
During the lawsuit, it was discovered the truck drivers responsible for the accident violated the hours-of-service regulations. When the accident occurred, the truckers had already been driving for 14 hours and 15 minutes. The truck drivers were fatigued and made a reckless decision to pass multiple vehicles in one try. The truck driver then failed to recognize the oncoming car and did not make any attempt to avoid the collision. This is the type of reckless decision the hours-of-service regulations are intended to prevent.
When truckers and their employers do not respect or follow hours-of-service regulations, they put every motorist in danger. When a drowsy driver is operating a vehicle, catastrophic accidents, such as the one on Highway 318, may result.
What to Do After Sustaining Injuries in a Truck Accident
If you have been injured in a truck accident caused by a negligent trucker, we’re here to help. Our truck accident attorneys work diligently to ensure victims of truck accidents have a voice and receive the compensation they deserve.
Contact Rouda Feder Tietjen & McGuinn at (415) 940-7176 to learn how we can help you today.