Hours of service rules in commercial vehicle accident cases, P.1

Recently, we’ve been looking at the topic of drowsy or fatigued driving and its effects on motor vehicle safety. As we’ve noted, researchers have compared the impairment caused by fatigue to impairment caused by alcohol, and the consequences of this impairment are potentially very serious for commercial vehicle drivers given the size and weight of these vehicles and the number of people potentially impacted.

As we’ve previously pointed out, federal regulators are well aware of these risks and are responsible for administering the hours of service rules. These rules apply to most commercial vehicle drivers and govern the number of hours truckers can be behind the wheel on a daily and weekly basis, as well as rest breaks. Truckers are required to comply with these rules or face penalties, and employers are expected to monitor employees for compliance as well.

The hours of service rules are different for property-carrying drivers and passenger-carrying drivers. The requirements for the former can be summarized as follows:

  • No more than 11 hours driving after 10 consecutive hours off duty;
  • No driving at all after the 14th consecutive hour on duty;
  • Minimum 30-minute break after 8 consecutive hours on duty
  • No driving after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. This period may be restarted by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off duty
  • For drivers using a sleeper birth, 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth must be taken, plus an additional 2 hours either in the sleeper berth or off duty

Those who are involved in an accident with a truck driver should, of course, explore every avenue available when it comes to establishing liability for the accident. This includes violations of the hours of service rules. In our next post, we’ll continue this discussion and look at how an experienced attorney can help a victim of fatigued truck driving build a solid case against a noncompliant trucker.