According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the working of long daily and weekly hours by truck drivers is associated with chronic driver fatigue and a resultant high risk of crashes. In order to ensure that drivers stay awake and sufficiently alert and to reduce the incidence of driver fatigue over time, the FMCSA enacted Hours of Service (HOS) regulations, 49 CFR Part 395, that limit when and for how long any individual driver may work and drive. Experienced truck-accident lawyers have a thorough knowledge and understanding of HOS regulations and how their violations can cause truck-crash victims’ injuries and death. The following is a summary of HOS regulations.

HOS regulations apply to most drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV). A CMV is defined by the FMCSA (Hours of Service: Who Must Comply?) as a vehicle that is used as part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and fits any of the following descriptions:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, for no compensation
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers, including the driver, for compensation
  • Is being used to transport hazardous materials in a quantity large enough to require placards

Property-carrying CMV

The HOS rules for property-carrying truck drivers limit drivers’ daily driving time to 11 hours and drivers’ daily work days to 14 hours, after 10 consecutive hours off duty. The regulations also limit drivers’ maximum average work weeks to 60 hours for 7 consecutive days and 70 hours for 8 consecutive days, and require 34 consecutive hours of rest before drivers who have reached the maximum weekly hours can resume driving. The 34-hour consecutive rest requirement also includes at least two nights of rest between 1 and 5 a.m. 49 CFR §§395.1, 395.3.

Rest Breaks

Property-carrying drivers (other than drivers using short-haul exceptions) must take a 30-minute break during the first 8 hours of any shift. Specifically, they may drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of their last off-duty or sleeper-berth rest period of 30 minutes or more. 49 CFR §395.3.

Sleeper-berth Rule for Property-carrying CMV

trucking hours of serviceA driver who operates a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle equipped with a sleeper berth must, before driving, accumulate at least 10 consecutive hours off duty, at least 10 consecutive hours of sleeper-berth time, a combination of consecutive sleeper-berth and off-duty time amounting to at least 10 hours, or the equivalent of at least 10 consecutive hours off duty under certain circumstances. 49 CFR §395.1.

Passenger-carrying CMV

The HOS rules for passenger-carrying CMV drivers limit drivers’ daily driving time to 10 hours and drivers’ daily work days to 15 hours, after 8 consecutive hours off duty. These drivers are also subject to a maximum average work week of 60 hours for 7 consecutive days and 70 hours for 8 consecutive days. 49 CFR §§395.1, 395.5.

Sleeper-berth Rule for Passenger-carrying CMV

A driver of a passenger-carrying commercial motor vehicle may not return to driving within the hours stated in the paragraph above without taking at least 8 consecutive hours off duty, at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, or a combination of at least 8 consecutive hours of off-duty and sleeper-berth time. A driver may accumulate the equivalent of 8 hours of off-duty time by taking a combination of at least 8 consecutive hours off-duty and sleeper-berth time, or by taking two periods of rest in the sleeper berth, as long as neither period is shorter than 2 hours, the driving time in the period immediately before and after each rest period, when added together, does not exceed 10 hours, and the on-duty time in the period immediately before and after each rest period, when added together, does not include any driving time after the 15th hour. 49 CFR §395.1.

Driver Record-keeping Requirements

All drivers subject to HOS regulations must keep driver logs that record, among other things, starting time of a 24-hour period, total time driven in a day, time and duration of breaks, time spent in berths, and time spent off-duty. 49 CFR §395.8.

Penalties for HOS Violations

Trucking companies and drivers to whom the HOS regulations apply are subject to penalties for HOS violations. For example, trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed maximum allowable driving time by more than 3 hours may be subject to fines of $11,000 for each offense, and drivers who commit these violations may be fined up to $2,750 for each offense. 49 CFR Part 386, Appendix B.

HOS Violations as Driver or Company Negligence

Driver fatigue is a common cause of truck crashes and truck-accident victims’ injuries or deaths. A company or driver’s violation of HOS regulations may be found to establish driver and/or company negligence in an action brought to recover damages for personal injuries sustained by a truck-accident victim. If, for example, a trucking company is found to have required a driver to exceed maximum allowable daily or weekly driving time or to have set up run schedules that precluded a driver from taking HOS-required rests, the company and the driver may be found liable for a victim’s injury or death determined to have been caused by the truck driver’s resultant fatigue.

Our truck accident attorneys know the law and science of truck-accident cases and how to establish the liability of drivers and companies who have caused innocent victims’ injuries and deaths through HOS or other violations. Driver fatigue is a major contributor to truck accidents across the country, and our national team is ready to help you fight for the compensation you deserve from a truck driver or company whose negligence or irresponsible practices caused your injuries or loved one’s death. If you have any questions about the HOS regulations and how their violation may have contributed to your truck accident and resulting injuries, we can provide you with the answers you seek and assist you in bringing the responsible parties to justice.