How Many Hours Can a Truck Driver Drive

How Long Can a Truck Driver Drive?

Truck driver safety is paramount for both road users and the transportation industry. Hours of service (HOS) regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in the United States are designed to ensure that truck drivers get enough rest to operate safely. Below, we discuss HOS regulations, duty periods, exceptions, and the penalties for violating them.

Violations of trucking regulations can often lead to serious truck crashes and injuries, and responsible truck drivers and companies should be fully liable for the losses of victims. If you suffered injuries, consult with an experienced Wisconsin truck accident attorney immediately. 


Hours of Service Regulations

Hours of service regulations are enforced by the FMCSA and are taken very seriously in the trucking industry. The following are some key points regarding HOS restrictions, violations, and possible penalties.

Maximum Driving Time

The FMCSA mandates that a driver may not drive beyond 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. A driver cannot work more than 14 consecutive hours, which includes driving time and non-driving activities (e.g., loading/unloading, paperwork). A driver may not drive after accumulating 60 or 70 hours on duty in 7 or 8 consecutive days, respectively.

Duty Periods and Rest Breaks

Drivers must take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of consecutive driving. Drivers can split their required 10-hour off-duty time into two periods: one of at least 2 hours and another of at least 7 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. Short rest breaks (e.g., stretching, using a restroom) count towards the 14-hour duty period, but do not extend it.

Exceptions to HOS Regulations

Drivers should only step outside the guidelines when they are certain one of the following exceptions applies to their specific circumstances. 

Short-Haul Exception – Drivers operating within a 150-air-mile radius are exempt from keeping records of duty status, and their workday may be extended to 14 hours.

Adverse Driving Conditions – In unforeseen circumstances like extreme weather or traffic, drivers can extend their driving time by up to 2 hours.

16-Hour Exception – Drivers may drive after being on duty for 16 hours following 10 consecutive hours off-duty.


Penalties for Violating HOS Regulations

The FMCSA takes HOS restrictions very seriously, and drivers can face steep penalties if they are found in violation of the regulations. Some potential penalties include:

  • Fines – Violating HOS regulations can result in significant fines for both drivers and carriers.
  • Out-of-Service Orders – Drivers who consistently violate HOS rules may face out-of-service orders, suspending their ability to operate a commercial vehicle for a designated period.
  • CSA Points – Violations of HOS regulations can result in points on a driver’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) record, affecting their safety rating.
  • Civil Penalties for Carriers – Carriers who allow or require drivers to violate HOS regulations may face substantial civil penalties.

Adhering to hours of service regulations is crucial for the safety of truck drivers and all road users. Understanding duty periods, rest breaks, and exceptions is essential for compliance. Violations of HOS regulations can lead to fines, out-of-service orders, CSA points, and penalties for carriers. Prioritizing adherence to HOS regulations not only ensures legal compliance but also fosters a safer and more responsible trucking industry.


Electronic Logs

Electronic logging devices, or E-logs, are digital tools used by truck drivers to record and monitor their hours of service compliance. They have largely replaced traditional paper logbooks, offering a more accurate and efficient way to track driving hours and rest breaks.

One of the key benefits of E-logs is their ability to automatically record data, reducing the risk of human error and falsification of records. This promotes greater transparency and ensures that drivers and carriers adhere to HOS regulations set by government agencies.

E-logs also provide real-time tracking of a driver’s status, such as driving, on-duty, or off-duty time. This information is invaluable for both drivers and carriers in managing schedules and optimizing routes. Additionally, electronic logs can alert drivers and dispatchers when they are approaching their maximum allowable driving time, helping to prevent violations.

For safety and compliance, E-logs play a crucial role. They assist in preventing driver fatigue, which is a leading cause of accidents in the trucking industry. By accurately tracking driving hours and ensuring drivers take appropriate rest breaks, E-logs contribute to a safer road environment for all. Moreover, E-logs can also simplify administrative tasks. They generate detailed reports that can be easily accessed and shared with authorities, improving compliance during inspections.

Further, if a truck accident occurs, authorities, trucking companies, and injured parties can review electronic logs to determine whether the truck driver was in compliance with hours of service regulations. This can be critical evidence to prove an injury claim following a truck accident that might be due to fatigued driving.

How Driving for Too Many Hours Can Lead to Truck Accidents

Long-haul trucking plays a pivotal role in the global economy, facilitating the transportation of goods across vast distances. However, the demands of the industry can sometimes lead to drivers pushing their limits, resulting in extended hours on the road. This practice, known as “overdriving,” poses a significant risk to road safety. 

There can be hugely detrimental effects of driving for too many hours, and it directly correlates with an increased likelihood of truck accidents.

Fatigue is a Pervasive Hazard

Prolonged hours of driving lead to cumulative fatigue, impairing a driver’s ability to concentrate, make split-second decisions, and react promptly to sudden hazards. Fatigue can impair cognitive functions, including attention, memory, and judgment, heightening the risk of errors and poor decision-making. Long hours behind the wheel can cause a decline in alertness, resulting in drowsiness and reduced vigilance on the road.

Reduced Reaction Time and Impaired Judgement

Fatigue slows down a driver’s reaction time, which is critical for avoiding accidents, especially in high-speed environments. Fatigue can lead to impaired judgment, causing drivers to underestimate risks, overestimate their capabilities, or make poor decisions.

Deteriorating Physical Performance

Prolonged driving leads to physical fatigue, affecting a driver’s coordination and motor skills, which are vital for precise vehicle control. Fatigue can cause blurred vision, diminished depth perception, and difficulty maintaining focus, all of which are essential for safe driving.

Safety Measures and Best Practices

Truck drivers should always follow proper safety procedures to ensure safety on the road: 

  • Regular rest breaks – Taking regular breaks to rest and rejuvenate is crucial for combating fatigue and maintaining alertness.
  • Adequate sleep – Prioritizing sufficient restorative sleep is essential for ensuring drivers are well-rested and mentally sharp before embarking on long journeys.
  • Avoiding caffeine dependency – While caffeine can provide short-term alertness, it is not a substitute for proper rest, and reliance on it can lead to a false sense of wakefulness.


Types of Accidents Due to Fatigued Driving

Fatigued driving is a serious issue that can lead to various types of accidents, endangering both the fatigued driver and others on the road. Here are some common types of accidents associated with driving while fatigued:

  • Rear-end collisions: Fatigued drivers often struggle to maintain focus and reaction time. This can result in them failing to brake in time, leading to rear-end collisions with vehicles in front.
  • Single-vehicle crashes: Fatigue impairs a driver’s ability to maintain control of their vehicle. This can lead to single-vehicle accidents, where the fatigued driver may veer off the road, collide with barriers, or overturn.
  • Head-on collisions: In cases of extreme fatigue, drivers may fall asleep at the wheel, causing them to drift into oncoming traffic, resulting in potentially fatal head-on collisions.
  • Collisions at intersections: Fatigued drivers may miss stop signs or traffic signals, leading to accidents at intersections.
  • Lane drifting: Drowsy drivers are prone to drifting out of their lane without realizing it. This can result in sideswipes or collisions with other vehicles.
  • Failure to yield the right of way: Fatigue can cause drivers to misjudge distances and speeds, leading to failure to yield the right of way in situations where they should.
  • Accidents involving pedestrians or cyclists: Fatigued drivers may not be as vigilant in scanning for pedestrians or cyclists, increasing the risk of accidents involving vulnerable road users.
  • Multi-vehicle pile-ups: On highways or high-speed roads, fatigued drivers who lose control of their vehicles can trigger chain-reaction collisions involving multiple vehicles.
  • Accidents involving commercial vehicles: Fatigued truck drivers, due to the long hours they often work, are at higher risk for accidents involving their large and heavy vehicles.
  • Accidents caused by sudden microsleeps: Extreme fatigue can lead to microsleep episodes, where a driver momentarily dozes off. Even a few seconds of unconsciousness can lead to a catastrophic accident.

It is imperative for truck drivers to recognize the signs of fatigue and take appropriate measures, such as pulling over to rest or changing drivers if possible. Fatigued driving poses a severe threat to road safety, and being aware of its potential consequences is essential for preventing accidents and saving lives.


Wisconsin Truck Accident Lawyers Ready to Help

If you’ve been involved in a truck accident in Wisconsin, seeking professional legal assistance is crucial. Our Wisconsin truck accident lawyers from Mingo & Yankala, S.C. Accident & Injury Lawyers are well-versed in the complexities of these cases and can provide invaluable support. We understand FMCSA regulations, state traffic laws, and insurance regulations and have experience dealing with trucking companies and their insurers.

Our dedicated attorneys will investigate the accident thoroughly, gathering evidence to build a strong case on your behalf. We will work tirelessly to determine liability, whether it involves the truck driver, the trucking company, or other parties. With our experience, we will help you navigate the legal process, ensuring your rights are protected.

Furthermore, our firm has the knowledge and resources to negotiate with insurance companies and, if necessary, take your case to court. We strive to secure the compensation you deserve for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the accident.

In the aftermath of a truck accident, don’t hesitate to reach out to our experienced Wisconsin truck accident lawyers. They’re ready to stand by your side, advocating for your rights and working towards a fair resolution. Your well-being and financial recovery are their top priorities. Contact us today for the guidance you need during this challenging time.