How Truck Driver Hours-of-Service Violations Lead to Crashes
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the leading causes of large truck crashes are speed, distraction, and impairment due to fatigue, alcohol, or illness. Due to the severity and fatalities often resulting from truck accidents, which are suffered by non-truck occupants nearly 70 percent of the time, the federal government has instituted trucking service hours as a means of keeping fatigued truck drivers off of public roads. Regulating these requirements, however, can be difficult as they are complex and the industry is relatively self-regulated. If you were injured in a truck accident, it is essential to request the trucking logbook as soon as possible to ensure that the truck driver was operating within federal regulations.
Categories of Hours-of-Service Regulations
There are three types of hours-of-service regulations to which commercial truck drivers must adhere. However, these regulations are only applicable to drivers of commercial vehicles operating over state lines, which include vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds or transporting “hazardous materials.” The regulations include:
- The 14-hour Driving Window – truck drivers are provided with a 14-hour “window” with which they can drive up to 11 hours; however, a truck driver must have been off duty for at least 10 hours in order to activate the window;
- The 11-hour Driving Limit – Within a truck driver’s 14-hour window, he is only allowed to drive his truck for 11 total hours; however, a driver must be within 8 hours of his or her last break, which is required to be at least 30 minutes. Put simply, a driver cannot drive for more than 8 consecutive hours without taking a 30-minute break;
- The 60/70-Hour Duty Limit – A driver is not allowed to operate the truck for more than 60 hours within a seven–day period or more than 70 hours within an eight–day period;
- The 34-Hour Restart – If a truck driver wants to “restart” his 60 or 70–hour clock, he must take 34 consecutive hours off duty, including sleep. If the driver does not take the allotted time off, there are always “hours” left on the week that will not reset.
These regulations are all individually applicable to truck drivers, and they are applicable to almost all commercial vehicle operations. This means a truck driver cannot circumvent these regulations by having two different employers. The regulations apply to the entire trucking industry. Further, “off-time” does not include resting in the truck at a rest stop or two hours of riding as a truck passenger. For example, a driver resting at a truck stop for two hours can count as her 30-minute break, but the fourteen-hour window is still ticking. A truck driver cannot claim he had adequate “off-time” simply because he stopped for a bit. Because these regulations may be difficult to track, and truck drivers may be tempted to circumvent them in order to return home more quickly, it is important to contact an attorney who understands these complex regulations if you have been involved in a truck accident.
Hours-of-Service and Weather Conditions
Due to Florida’s propensity for sudden rain and thunderstorms, the distance that a truck driver might be able to drive in a normal 10-hour period may be reduced. Accordingly, you are permitted to drive an additional 2 hours in order to reach your destination if rain conditions have slowed you. However, such slick conditions present their own risks. Because the average truck weighs 20-30 times more than a typical motor vehicle, stopping a truck can be difficult even with air breaks. Sudden stops can require immense break pressure, and if the road conditions are slick, it can cause the tractor and trailer of the truck to fall out of balance due to lack of friction. This can cause what is known as “jackknifing,” which occurs when the front and back end of the truck fold into one another in an “L” or “V” shape. This is particularly dangerous for other drivers, and the truck driver will often have no control over the vehicle once it falls out of sync.
Exceptions to Federal Regulations
As with most federal regulations, there are a plethora of exceptions to the hours of service requirements, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Emergency vehicles, including fire rescue vehicles, which are not subject to regulations;
- Movie and television production vehicles;
- Oilfield operations;
- Driving in Hawaii and Alaska;
- Winter heating and pipeline emergencies;
- Railroad employee vehicles;
- Utility service and tow trucks on duty; and
- Local government and state vehicles.
Accordingly, things can get complicated if you are injured in a truck accident and the driver is claiming her or she was operating under an exception. For example, if a driver is in a necessary “off-duty” period but there is a pipeline emergency, even though he may be fatigued, which is the very issue the regulations attempt to prevent, he is still permitted to respond to the emergency without being subject to the regulations.
Contact a Clearwater Truck Accident and Federal Trucking Regulations Attorney Today
Both the federal and Florida regulations at issue when it comes to truck accidents are complex. From checking and confirming logbook hours to ensuring the truck driver was not operating under an expectation to the regulations, it can take immense time and effort to ensure you get the compensation you deserve if a truck driver was in violation of regulations. If such a violation is found, this may result in the court granting you a presumption that the truck driver was negligent because she broke the law, and you may even be able to claim that the trucking company was negligent in its hourly tracking system and ensuring that its employees were following proper regulations.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, contact the Dolman Law Group today. They have the personal injury and truck accident lawyers you need in the greater Tampa Bay area, and they can analyze your claim in accordance with federal trucking regulations. Call them today at 727-451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation about your personal injuries or contact them online.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765