Truck Driver Fatigue Laws

No one wants to drive near an 80,000-pound semi-truck with a tired driver behind the wheel. Operating a massive semi-truck towing a heavy trailer requires skill, experience, and alertness. Unfortunately, truck drivers’ strict delivery schedules and the long distances they need to travel mean many drivers fail to get adequate rest before their shift or become tired as they drive. 

Laws and regulations govern how much time truck drivers can spend behind the wheel, though truckers often ignore these rules when in a hurry.

If you have been injured in an accident with a truck driver, it may be because the driver ignored these safety regulations. Keep reading to learn more about truck driver fatigue laws and how they may apply to a truck accident case.

What Federal Regulations Limit Truckers’ Drive Time?

Many states have safety regulations for truck drivers, but truckers who handle interstate routes (meaning they travel in more than one state) are primarily subject to regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA is the agency responsible for overseeing the trucking agency, which includes preventing tired drivers from getting behind the wheel of a truck.

Hours of Service Regulations

The primary laws that pertain to truck driver fatigue are found in Part 395 of the FMCSA’s safety regulations. In the trucking industry, these rules are commonly referred to as “Hours of Service” regulations. Some of the critical Hours of Service regulations that apply to truck drivers are:

  • The 14-Hour “Driving Window” Limit — Truck drivers are allowed to be on duty for 14 hours from when they start work. This 14-hour window begins as soon as the driver starts work-related tasks, not when they start driving. Of those 14 hours, a maximum of 11 can be spent behind the wheel. A truck driver must take a break of at least 30 minutes after being behind the wheel for 8 hours. Once the driver has reached the end of the 14-hour window, they are required to rest for at least 10 consecutive hours before starting work again.
  • 70-Hour Duty Limit — A truck driver can be on duty for a maximum of 70 hours in an 8-day workweek or 60 hours in a 7-day workweek, depending on how their schedule is arranged.
  • Differences Between Interstate and Intrastate Driving Hours — Hours of Service regulations for intrastate truck drivers (meaning the driver does not leave the state) work differently. In particular, the driving window for intrastate truckers is 15 hours, though drivers can only be behind the wheel for 12 hours at most. After the 15-hour window expires, drivers must be off duty for 8 consecutive hours.

Is Fatigue a Leading Cause of Truck Accidents?

Fatigue is a leading cause of truck accidents across the nation. According to the FMCSA, researchers found that fatigue contributed to about 13 percent of all truck crashes.

Contact Our Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys Today

Did a fatigued truck driver injure you? Are you dealing with painful injuries and financial stress due to the crash? If so, contact the law firm of Pines & Goldenzweig, PLLC, today for a free consultation with a Houston truck accident attorney. 

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