The length of time truck drivers can drive before they have to take a break is based on federal truck regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a part of the Department of Transportation (DOT), issues hours-of-service limits among these regulations.
These are designed to help improve safety on the road by reducing driver fatigue. Among these rules is the requirement that truckers take a 30-minute break after eight consecutive hours of a shift.
Overview of the Hours-of-Service Rules
To understand how this works into the driver’s on-duty and driving time, it helps to know the other hours-of-service limits that truckers must follow. These include the 14-hour on-duty period and 11-hour driving limit.
- 14-hour duty limit – The 14-hour duty limit means the driver cannot drive beyond the 14th hour after coming on duty following at least 10 consecutive hours spent off duty. It starts whenever work begins and ends after 14 consecutive hours.
- 11-hour driving limit – The 11-hour driving limit pertains specifically to how long a truck driver can drive while on duty. In order to drive again, the trucker must be off duty for another 10 consecutive hours.
- 60/70 hour duty limit – The 60/70 hour duty limit, based on a seven- or eight-day period, can start at any time. This means it will vary for each driver, depending on the types of hours and days of the week he works. Once someone has been on duty 60/70 hours during seven/eight consecutive days, he cannot continue to drive. The driver may restart this period after a restart period of at least 34 consecutive hours spent off-duty.
So let’s say a driver comes on duty at 6 a.m. He drives the truck from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. At this point he must stop driving because it has been 8 hours. After taking a 30-minute break, he can resume driving at 2:30 p.m. He has another three hours to drive within the 14-hour on-duty period, which would end at 8 p.m.
How do truck drivers log their hours?
Since the 1930s, truck drivers have generally logged their hours by hand on paper. Because this method is highly ineffective, easy to falsify, and requires a lot of time, the FMCSA has decided to implement and mandate electronic logging devices.
“This automated technology not only brings logging records into the modern age, it also allows roadside safety inspectors to unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a press release.
The new law requires that carriers outfit their commercial trucks with electronic logging devices (ELD), which automatically records driving time. The devices monitor engine hours, vehicle movement, miles driven, and location information.
Carriers have until December 2017 to comply with the new rule. The FMCSA estimates that implementing ELDs across the board will save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries that would have resulted from crashes involving commercial trucks.
FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling noted, “This is a win for all motorists on our nation’s roadways. Employing technology to ensure that commercial drivers comply with federal hours-of-service rules will prevent crashes and save lives.”
How a Truck Driver’s Hours Could Impact an Injury Case
Drivers have a great deal of responsibility to make sure they are alert when operating a truck. Because many truckers travel long distances for long periods of time, it increases the risk of becoming drowsy or even falling asleep behind the wheel. These hours-of-service rules help prevent this by making sure truckers don’t drive too long and that they take their necessary breaks.
If a trucker violates these rules, it could help establish the driver’s liability in an accident. At the very least, it could be considered as a contributing factor. But if the driver was impaired because of drowsiness, records may indicate he or she didn’t take a required break when he should have. This could help build a strong case against the driver.
How do I recover information about a driver’s hours for my claim?
Your truck accident attorney will need to help you request, recover, and preserve the truck driver’s hours of service information. He may also need to gather other types of evidence to establish how long the driver was on-duty and/or behind the wheel, such as gas receipt records, weigh station records, and toll records. Of course, some drivers or trucking companies may try to fabricate these records, but your attorney can try to uncover any inconsistencies.
At the onset of your case, your attorney can send a letter of spoliation to the carrier, informing them that a case is pending and that it must preserve certain important documents – including the hours of service. This letter is paramount to your case because the law only requires carriers to keep records for a certain amount of time. For instance, they only have to keep hours of service records for six months. If you and your lawyer do not act quickly, the trucking company can destroy evidence that is critical to your case.
Where can I get legal advice about a truck accident?
Your attorney can help you obtain the trucker’s hours-of-service records from his or her employer. Employers are required to keep this information on file for six months, but sending a spoliation letter can prevent its destruction so you can use it as evidence in your claim or lawsuit.