Commuters on major highways have long been worried for their safety when sharing the road with an 18-wheeler or other big truck. Part of the fear comes from tired or impaired truck drivers behind the wheel of semis on the road with you. That fear is well founded as truck drivers can easily become fatigued or drowsy after long hours on the road, putting everyone at risk of a catastrophic trucking accident. A recent trucking analysis has again revealed that truckers’ hours of service is critical issue in the industry.
The American Transportation Research Institute, a not-for-profit research body, recently announced that hours-of-service (HOS) rules are the second most critical issue in the trucking industry. The only concern that surpassing it is truck driver shortage. This is the second year in a row that HOS rules have been in the second spot. According to ATRI, it reflects the industry’s need for greater flexibility in the regulations.
How does this affect car drivers and other motorists? The hours-of-duty rules in trucking could spell the difference between safety and disaster.
An Overview Of Trucking Hours-Of -Service Rules
Drivers of large commercial trucks throughout the US are usually subject to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Among these regulations are limits to the working and driving hours of truckers, collectively known as hours-of-service (HOS) rules.
At the time of writing this article these are some of the primary HOS regulations for truck drivers:
- 14-hour driving window. A driver has a 14-consecutive-hour window in which to drive, before they are required to be off duty for 10 consecutive hours. For example, if trucker starts working at 12 midnight, they only have until 2 pm to do their driving for the day. At 2pm, they must get off work and take the mandatory off-duty period.
- 11-hour total driving. Within the 14-hour window , a driver cannot drive for more than 11 hours total. Once they have driven a total of 11 hours, they must go off-duty, whether or not the 14-hour window is still open.
- 30-minute rest break. A 30-minute rest break is mandatory after eight hours of consecutive driving. This break does not count as off-duty time, meaning the 14-hour driving clock continues running during the 30-minute rest. The FMCSA explains that “allowing off-duty time to extend the work day would allow drivers to drive long past the time when fatigue becomes extreme.”
FMCSA is evaluating whether to revise some of the HOS rules so they may change in the future.
Why Hours-Of-Service Regulations Are Vital
Limits on driving hours help truck drivers to get adequate rest and avoid overworking. It has been found that fatigued driving is a factor in many truck accidents, with an FMCSA study showing that 13 percent of truck wrecks involved driver fatigue. Other studies also show that truckers who had been on the road for more than eight hours were twice more likely to crash than those who were driving for shorter amounts of time.
It is the duty of truck drivers and trucking companies to comply with the safety rules. These federal laws exist to help keep our highways safe from truck wrecks. In the event of a truck crash involving a tired or impaired truck driver the HOS rules may be crucial in evaluating liability.
This is all the more important in and around metropolitan areas like Kansas City, where semis and other big trucks regularly travel the roads. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck crash in Kansas or Missouri, call Flick Law Firm as soon as possible. We are specifically trained in trucking laws, and are experienced handling complex truck accidents.