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Steven M. Lee, PC

Federally Mandated Hours of Service Regulations Seek to Decrease Truck Driving Accidents

Truck drivers must follow strict regulations to make sure they’re alert at the wheelIf you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter, you’re acutely aware of the psychological and physical effects that fatigue can have on your ability to function. As a result, you may not be surprised to learn that when a truck driver is forced to continue his driving run after 12 hours on the road, the chance of him causing a truck accident is significantly increased.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), approximately 750 deaths and over 20,000 injuries a year are related to truck driver fatigue. Despite these statistics, truck drivers continuously stay behind the wheel, on little to no sleep, in order to hit the ridiculously short deadlines their bosses encourage.

In retaliation for this blatant disregard for safety by both the trucker and the trucking company, the FMCSA established federal hours of service (HOS) rules. This rule stated that a trucker could work up to 82 hours a week (more than double regular working hours), but didn’t adequately specify when he had to sleep or for how long.

Updated Hours of Service: More Limitations for Better Safety

Although the original HOS provided some limitations to ease public concern over truck driver fatigue and highway safety, it wasn’t enough to keep truck companies from encouraging drivers to skip breaks. It took until 2012 for updated truckers’ hours of service rules to be put in place. The updated mandate—which went into full effect in 2013—specifically denotes number, length, time, and frequency of resting periods that truckers must obey.

These rules are as follows:

  • Truckers may not exceed a maximum of 70 work hours over the course of one week.
  • Truck drivers who reach the weekly maximum of 70 hours can only resume driving if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including a sleep period of at least two nights between the hours of 1 AM to 5 AM.
  • Truck drivers are required to take at least one 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.
  • Drivers must have a minimum of 10 consecutive hours off-duty between their shifts
  • When using the sleeper berth or truck cot for breaks and rest periods, a driver must take at least 8 hours to sleep; he can then use the additional two off-duty hours either sleeping or resting.
  • Following their 10 off-duty hours, drivers may not exceed a maximum of 11 consecutive hours behind the wheel.
  • Drivers may never stay on duty for more than 14 consecutive hours (this includes all non-driving activities, truck maintenance, loading and unloading, paperwork, off-duty breaks, etc.)

The purpose of the hours-of-service is to make the roads safer by cutting down on the amount of time a professional driver spends behind the wheel. Truck driver fatigue is a common cause of many truck accidents.

Hours of Service Violations Lead to Suffering…Your Suffering

HOS regulations aren’t just in place to guarantee truckers get breaks; they are in place to prevent fatigued drivers from causing accidents. Consequently, if a trucker disobeys the regulations and as a direct result causes a collision, he (as well as other parties) could be held liable for damages.

If your truck accident attorney can prove that the driver who caused your accident was breaking the HOS rules, he’ll have the evidence to prove negligence. Furthermore, if it can be determined that the hours-of-service rules were violated, the driver may not be the only liable party; his employer or his the trucking company may also be considered at fault.

The best way to learn what your rights are after being injured in a truck accident is to consult a highly experienced truck accident attorney. By making an appointment today, we can help you determine the cause of your accident, who is to blame, and your next course of action. Pick up the phone and dial 713-921-4171 for your free consultation.


Steven M. Lee
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Houston Attorney at Law

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