How Long Can a Truck Driver Drive?
Last updated Monday, October 9th, 2023
Is Your Trucking Company Pushing You to Exhaustion? Find Out If They’re Violating Your Rights
Truck drivers are the backbone of the American economy. Unfortunately, many of them are fatigued with a stressful schedule. However, giving into fatigue on the road could mean injuring the traveling public.
A shocking 86% of fatal truck accidents are caused by driver fatigue. Fatigue is one of the leading causes of truck accidents. Experts suggest that staying awake for 18 hours can impair you similarly to being intoxicated. Still, many truck drivers are pushing their limits or using heavy stimulants to keep up their hectic schedules.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has recognized the grave danger of fatigued commercial truck drivers. So they have established a clear set of safety regulations for truck drivers and their employers to follow. These important Hours of Service (HOS) rules have helped bring down fatigue-related accidents.
Let’s take a deeper look at how HOS rules have made the roads safer.
Understanding HOS Rules
The HOS rules set up clear limitations for:
- How many drivers a trucker can drive in one shift
- Maximum continuous driving time
- Minimum required sleep
- Rest breaks
- Total work in a given time period
Maximum Driving Limits
Here is a detailed breakdown of the maximum driving limits for truck drivers:
- 11-Hour Rule – Truck drivers can drive no more than 11 hours a day, followed by 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- 14-Hour Rule – The FMCSA mandates that the 11 hours of driving should fall within a 14-hour window. The 14-hour window marks the beginning of a driving shift after the minimum 10-hour rest period.
Driving continuously with minimal physical movement can take a heavy toll on the body over the years. The HOS guidelines require truck drivers to take a 30-minute break after continuously 8 hours on the road.
Drivers are encouraged to take breaks more frequently to have a meal, take a nap, or simply stretch and relax. They’ll be able to refresh themselves and stay alert on the road. However, drivers who are completing short-haul deliveries aren’t mandated to follow this rule.
Weekly Driving Hours Limits
Here’s an in-depth examination of the FMCSA’s 60/70 hour rule:
60-Hour/Seven-Day Rule – Truck drivers can drive no more than 60 hours in a consecutive seven-day period
70-Hour/Eight-Day Rule – Truck drivers can drive no more than 70 hours in a consecutive eight-day period
The Restart Provision
The FMCSA follows a rolling-week concept to limit the driving hours of truckers who keep pushing their limits.
It prevents them from exhausting themselves by following an extended rigorous schedule once they’ve completed their seven-day or eight-day driving period.
They can restart their seven-day or eight-day driving period once they’ve completed at least 34 hours of rest.
Truck Accident Liability
The driver and trucking company must maintain clear logs to document their working and rest periods. These details along with the driver’s employment history can help you hold them liable for negligence on the road.
Many companies and drivers overlook the HOS rules so they can fit in more deliveries and extend their profits.
Failure to maintain truck driver logs or any violation of HOS rules can be used against them. You have the legal right to file a claim against them and use this evidence to demand fair compensation for your damages.
Gathering Evidence for Legal Action
Here are a few important pieces of evidence that can help you prove negligence for your truck accident claim:
- Police accident report
- Visual evidence of your vehicle damages and injuries
- Truck black box data
- Eyewitness statements
- Surveillance footage
- Medical reports
- Hours of service logs
- Truck maintenance records
- Trucking company hiring records
Seeking Legal Assistance
Truck accidents often lead to life-threatening injuries or deaths. Severe injuries require serious compensation to ensure a proper recovery. It’s going to be an uphill battle trying to get a heavy settlement from insurance companies.
Identifying multiple liable parties and proving their fault is not going to be easy without a variety of evidence. Hiring a skillful truck accident lawyer can fast-track your path to fair compensation. They’ll take care of every legal obligation while you peacefully recover with your loved ones.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the penalties for violating HOS rules?
Here are some penalties you may face for violating HOS rules:
- You can be instructed to stop driving and get sufficient rest
- A fine ranging from $1,000 to $11,000 imposed by the FMCSA
- Additional local law enforcement fines
- Downgrading your trucking company’s safety rating
- Federal criminal charges imposed on you and your employer
How can trucking companies ensure compliance with HOS rules?
Here are some effective measures trucking companies can take to ensure their drivers comply with HOS rules:
- Clearly communicate the on-duty and off-duty limits to your drivers
- Track their driving and rest periods through electronic logging devices or paper logs
- Maintain a delivery schedule that does not overload any driver
- Take internal disciplinary actions for any violations of the rules
What should I do if I've been involved in a truck accident due to driver fatigue?
Here are some important steps you need to take if you’re involved in a truck accident due to driver fatigue:
- Call 911 to report the accident
- Collect photos and videos of the damages and injuries
- Exchange insurance information with the driver involved in the accident
- Seek urgent medical treatment
- Gather all evidence to prove liability and your losses
- Hire a reputed truck accident injury lawyer
Are there exceptions to HOS rules for specific types of cargo or industries?
Yes. Some of the common exceptions for HOS rules include:
- Transporting agricultural commodities during the laborious planting and harvesting season
- Livestock transportation
- Oilfield operations
- Construction-related transportation operations
- Short-haul deliveries
- Disaster management efforts
- Certain types of chemical cargo or oversized cargos
Can electronic logging devices (ELDs) assist in HOS compliance?
Yes. Electronic logging devices (ELDs) are the most efficient and transparent way for trucking companies to track on-duty and off-duty driver activity.