Hours-of-Service Regulations for Commercial Trucks
Driving a commercial vehicle is not easy, and some truck drivers face a considerable amount of pressure to keep up with tough deadlines in spite of unpredictable delays like poor weather and traffic. In an attempt to keep up with delivery schedules, some drivers may work long hours with few breaks and insufficient rest. This can lead to chronic fatigue and an increased risk of accidents. It even has the potential to cause serious medical conditions in overworked drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has addressed this very serious issue with hours-of-service regulations for commercial drivers. These regulations limit the number of hours a driver can work in a day and week and mandates regular breaks and extended rest periods. Trucking companies and their drivers are required to comply with these rules or face serious consequences, including heavy fines.
Fines and civil penalties aside, hours-of-service rule violations may have catastrophic consequences. A fatigued truck driver may be unable to safely operate an 80,000-pound truck due to decreased awareness, compromised judgment and delayed reaction time. A driver could even fall asleep at the wheel. When this occurs, occupants of smaller vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists are typically at the highest risk of injury. These people accounted for a staggering 93% of truck accident fatalities across the U.S. in 2011, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
If you were injured in a truck accident with a fatigued driver or suspect any type of negligence or wrongdoing, call a truck accident attorney at Pacific Attorney Group. We represent victims of commercial vehicle accidents across Southern California and can offer insight regarding hours-of-service regulations and other commercial truck regulations that may apply to your case. We can work to help you secure the financial compensation you need for medical bills, lost wages and so much more.
Understanding Federal Hours-of-Service Regulations
The FMCSA introduced new hours-of-service regulations in December 2011 that went into effect on July 1, 2013, after trucking companies were given 18 months to implement these rules. The new hours-of-service rules limit the number of hours a truck driver may work in an average workweek, changing it from 82 to 70. Drivers may resume driving after meeting the 70-hour maximum only if they rest for 34 consecutive hours. The rules also require truck drivers to take a 30-minute break within the first 8 hours of a shift.
These changes are estimated to save 19 lives and prevent 560 injuries each year by preventing about 1,400 truck accidents. The FMCSA also estimates that they can save an estimated $280 million in economic damages, not to mention protecting drivers’ health.
If a trucking company violates hours-of-service regulations by exceeding driving limits by more than 3 hours, the FMCSA has the authority to levy a fine of up to $11,000 per offense. Truck drivers could also face fines of up to $2,750 per offense. Trucking companies may also face civil lawsuits filed by victims of accidents their drivers cause.
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Addressing an insurance claim or lawsuit after a commercial truck accident can be complicated. You may be dealing with a large company with considerable resources, and it is important to ensure that your rights and interests are properly represented. Our attorneys have more than 40 years of combined experience and have the resources to build strong and compelling cases on our clients’ behalf, even against the biggest trucking companies.
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