There has been a lot of controversy in recent years surrounding the updated Federal rules on the hours of service for truck drivers. These regulations, which are designed to reduce trucking accidents by ensuring drivers get enough rest and do not put in too many hours, have spawned arguments every step of the way. Yet trucking accident lawyers and safety advocates see both sides of this challenging topic.
Current Hours of Service Regulations
Following are the hours of service regulations that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has put into effect and by which all commercial drivers must abide:
- 11-Hour Driving Limit - In an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related trucking accidents, no operator may drive their truck more than 11 hours in any 24 hour period.
- 14-Hour Workday Limit - In addition to the 11-hour driving limit, operators may not always be working from the moment they start their day to the time they log off. This 14 hour timeframe includes driving, rest breaks, loading or unloading, and anything else that may be required.
- 34-Hour Restart - Besides the daily restrictions referenced above, drivers must also take a 34-hour rest break after every 60/70 hours of time spent driving, with no more than 6/7 consecutive days spent driving.
The Positive Side
The main goal of all regulations concerning hours of service is to reduce the number of tractor trailer accidents that occur on the roads today by making sure that drivers get enough rest. Commercial drivers must log in and out when working and may not exceed driver and work hours or they and their employers could face serious penalties.
Drivers, safety advocates, and even trucking accident lawyers all recognize the need for these vehicle operators to be well rested in order to be safe, considering that fatigue plays a key role in many trucking accidents. These rules provide a way for drivers and companies to monitor working hours and avoid situations where overtired drivers are on the road when they should be resting.
The Negative Side
Although designed to increase safety and reduce tractor trailer crashes, many feel there is also a downside to these regulations. One such point relates to the 14-hour workday limit, which many drivers feel works against the idea of getting enough rest. According to the rule as it is currently written, operators must complete their entire workday within 14 consecutive hours, whether they are driving, loading and unloading, or even taking a nap. Those against the regulation state this actually prevents tired drivers from resting while they are already logged in since they will lose out on income-producing driving hours.
Previously, many have voiced concerns about the 34-hour restart rule, including a large number of drivers, certain safety groups, and trucking accident lawyers. Before recent amendments, the rule required a 34-hour rest period and also stipulated that the rest period must span over two periods, from 1 AM to 5 AM, which proved to be problematic for those who prefer to do their driving at night. Currently, this rule is in suspension while the FMCSA does further study.
Like everything else, there are positive and negatives to every rule; hours of service for truckers are no different. Trucking accident lawyers currently find that most people who are affected by these rules agree with them; however, there is still the issue of the 14-hour workday rule. The question remains as to whether the FMCSA will amend this point as they did with the 34-hour restart rule in an effort to reduce the number of trucking accidents that occur today. Drivers who would like to enjoy their rest breaks when they need them most when they are actually tired certainly hope so!
Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
Robert W. Hildebrand, Attorney at Law
J. Daniel Wilson, Attorney at Law
7830 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
Phone: (281) 408-2190