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Trucking Regulations: Why Hours-of-Service Rules Matter


The trucking industry is subject to numerous state and federal regulations which are intended to keep the public safe. That’s because commercial trucks, 18-wheelers, and passenger carrying vehicles like buses are massive machines that share the road with smaller consumer vehicles and pedestrians, and because they post such tremendous risks for causing harm, catastrophic injuries, and even death in preventable truck accidents. While there are regulations that cover everything from routine vehicle maintenance to proper loading and securement of cargo, some of the most important laws focus on preventing driver fatigue.

Known as Hours-of-Service (HOS), these trucking regulations are intended to address and limit risks posed by driver fatigue, a problem that causes thousands of vehicle accidents, injuries, and fatalities each year. A significant concern even for drivers of standard passenger vehicles, driver fatigue is an incredible danger when it involves the operator of a commercial vehicle that carries multiple passengers or cargo and freight that can weight up to tens of thousands of pounds. Below, we discuss a few HOS rules and why they are important to public safety:

  • Drive time limits – Hours-of-Service rules place strict limitations on the number of hours commercial drivers can work, and they apply to both cargo carriers and passenger carriers. Cargo-carrying drivers, for example, cannot drive for more than 11 hours after a 10-hour break. Passenger carrying drivers are limited to 10 hours after an 8-hour break. There are also limits that prevent drivers from operating vehicles after their 14th hour on duty (cargo carriers) or 15th hour on duty. These driving limits are crucial to avoiding risks posed by driver fatigue, which can worsen toward the end of working shifts.
  • Mandated rest breaks – Both cargo carriers and passenger carriers are required to take rest breaks. Cargo carriers can only drive if 8 hours or less have elapsed since their last 30-minute break, and both cargo and passenger carriers cannot driver after 60 to 70 hours of on-duty time in a 7 or 8 day period. These mandatory breaks are critical to ensuring drivers take the necessary time to rest during their long hauls, and longer week-based time limits help reduce risks associated with chronic fatigue. They also ensure drivers are resting during their breaks. Other rest break rules required at least 8 consecutive hours of a sleeper berth break, in addition to 2 consecutive hours off duty and / or in a sleeper berth.
  • Electronic logging devices – Trucking companies and drivers must now record the hours they work and spend on duty using logging devices. These ELDs are far more accurate than paper logs, and they automatically record drive time, making it more difficult for drivers to violate the law and continue driving past their rest breaks or drive time limit.

Hours-of-Service rules are incredibly important in reducing risks of truck accidents – especially those caused by a problem that has devastating consequences: driver fatigue. Today, truckers are held to far stricter standards than they were in years past, and they can and often are held accountable for violating regulations designed to keep tired truckers off the road. Still, there are ways these Hours-of-Service rules can be sidestepped, such as when electronic logging devices are inaccurate or false. There may also be issues involved in cases where tired truckers seemingly abided by HOS rules, but were found to have still been too fatigued to drive. The recent high profile trucking accident involving comedian Tracy Morgan illustrates how this can happen. In that case, the truck driver had been awake for over than 24 hours when he rear-ended Morgan’s vehicle because he had to commute from another state to start his shift.

Exploring how HOS rules were followed or violated, as well as any other acts of negligence or driver error, is a critical part of investigating trucking accident cases and protecting the rights of victims harmed in preventable wrecks. Our Los Angeles truck accident lawyers at Biren Law Group have the experience and insight to conduct meticulous investigations, and often work with various experts to help identify the underlying causes of wrecks, establish fault and liability, and secure the financial compensation our clients need.

To discuss a potential truck accident case during a free consultation, contact our firm today.