FMCSA Hours of Service Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) hours of service rules are one of the most important, yet most violated, regulations involving the trucking industry. Here is what you need to know about these important rules and how they may impact your claim. 

What Are the FMCSA Hours of Service Rules 

The FMCSA hours of service rules limit the number of hours a commercial truck driver can work before they are required to take a break. The number of hours they can work depends on whether they are transporting passengers or just goods. These are federal rules, so if a truck driver violates these rules, they can face penalties over $16,000 because the violation is considered a serious risk to other motorists. 

Purpose of FMCSA Hours of Service Rules 

The hours of service rules are in place to ensure that truck drivers, who are behind the wheel of large and heavy trucks, are well-rested and alert. The goal is to make the roads safer for all motorists. 

Truck drivers work long, tedious hours. Drowsy driving is one of the biggest risks to other motorists. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drowsy driving can be just as serious as impaired driving and mimic some of its symptoms. Tired drivers are more likely to cause serious or fatal accidents. However, trucking companies often encourage drivers to drive beyond their limits to meet strict deadlines and increase the company’s profits. The hours of service help to counter-balance these incentives. 

FMCSA Hours of Service Rules 

The hours of service rules include:

  • 14-hour/15-hour rule – Truck drivers carrying property may not drive more than 14 consecutive hours. Passenger-carrying truck drivers may not drive more than 15 consecutive hours. The driver must take 10 consecutive hours off duty before they can drive again.
  • 11-hour/10-hour rule – Property-carrying truckers can drive up to 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty within a 14-hour period. Passenger-carrying truckers can only drive up to 10 hours after eight consecutive hours off duty. 
  • 60-hour/70-hour rule – Truck drivers cannot drive after 60 hours on duty in seven consecutive days if they do not drive every day of the week. If they do drive every day, they cannot drive after 70 hours on duty in eight consecutive days. The driver can restart the seven- or eight-day rotation after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
  • 30-minute break rule – Commercial truck drivers cannot drive after driving for eight hours until they have taken at least 30 minutes off duty on a break.

How Do Hours of Service Rule Violations Affect Truck Accident Claims?

Drowsy drivers are dangerous drivers. Hours of service rules are in place to prevent drowsy drivers from causing preventable accidents. If a driver violated hours of service rules, this may have contributed to why the crash occurred. Compelling evidence can help show this was a contributing factor to the crash to establish fault and your right to recovery.  

Who Is Responsible for Violating Hours of Service Rules?

There are two primary parties who are responsible for violating hours of service rules: truck drivers and their employers. Truck drivers know the hours of service rules and when they are required to take breaks. They are responsible for complying with these laws.

The trucking companies that hire drivers can also be held responsible for accidents caused by their drivers. Some trucking companies may encourage drivers to skip breaks or otherwise violate the hours of service rules so they can make deliveries faster and increase the company’s profits. They may discipline drivers who do not meet unrealistic deadlines, pay by the mile, or pressure drivers to drive for too long. Even absent such blatant encouragement, trucking companies can be held responsible for the negligence of their drivers. 

An experienced truck accident lawyer can investigate your claim and determine who is at fault and build a case against them. Contact our team today for help with your claim.