Cranwell & Moore P.L.C., Attorneys at Law

Hours-of-service rules aim to keep tired drivers off the road

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Commercial vehicle drivers often must meet extreme scheduling demands set by their employers or those who contract for their services. Unfortunately, this often means that truck and bus drivers do not get the sleep or rest that they need to be alert and attentive to road and traffic conditions. All too often, drivers are unable to respond quickly to emergency events, even if they do not actually fall asleep while driving. This problem has vexed federal and state regulators for years.

Federal trucking regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation in late 2011 first established guidelines and rules to help truck and bus drivers get enough rest so they could do their jobs safely and without endangering themselves, passengers or other motorists.

Hours of service regulations, in particular, apply to large commercial vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 pounds or contain 16 persons or more, including the driver, if not for compensation, or that contain nine persons or more, if for compensation. These rules also apply to commercial vehicles transporting large quantities of hazardous chemicals.

The regulations are highly specific and include an 11-hour driving limit for drivers hauling property, which means no operator can drive longer than 11 hours in one stretch, which can only follow a period of ten consecutive hours during which the driver is off duty. For drivers who are carrying passengers, 10 straight hours is the maximum time allowed following eight consecutive hours of rest. Further provisions regulate how long commercial vehicle operators can be behind the wheel for up to eight days and how often rest breaks are required. All drivers must routinely fill out log book entries that show their rest and activity periods. The aim of all of these regulations is to eliminate fatigue and increase drivers' ability to travel safely.

Anyone who is in an accident caused by a commercial driver who was not in compliance with these federal regulations should consult an attorney with expertise in commercial vehicle accidents. This is the best way to secure compensation for injuries and damages.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, "Hours of service," accessed April 16, 2015

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