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Hours of Operation and Truck Driver Fatigue

Categorized as Truck Accidents

If you drive on the road, you know specific laws and rules you must follow. These are put into place to keep everyone on the road safe. Commercial truck drivers must follow those rules as well. However, they are regulated by specific rules that relate to the weight of the cargo and their hours of operation. Since truckers must run long hauls and drive for many hours, drowsy driving is a common problem. To reduce the risk of falling asleep at the wheel, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has put in place hours of service regulations for truckers to keep them from operating their vehicles while fatigued.

Read on to learn more about what is considered a commercial motor vehicle and the rules commercial truck drivers must follow to mitigate the risk of driver fatigue.

What is Considered a Commercial Vehicle?

The FMCSA outlines the truck drivers who must follow the regulations set forth by the Hours of Service. This is the case for most drivers of commercial motor vehicles. The agency considers a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) as one that:

  • Weighs 10,001 lbs. or heavier
  • Has a gross combination weight rating or gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 lbs. or heavier
  • Transports 16 or more passengers, including the driver, and not for compensation
  • Transports 9 or more passengers including the driver and for compensation
  • Transports several hazardous materials that would require a placard

It is essential for commercial motor vehicle drivers to know what actions they need to take to ensure they are well-rested when operating their trucks. These actions must be accurately recorded in the driver’s log. If something goes wrong and the truck driver crashes, these logs may be used to help determine the cause of the collision, which in turn, can determine liability.

Signs of Driver Fatigue

Truck driver fatigue is one of the main reasons why trucking accidents occur in the U.S. Long hours on the road with demanding deadlines can severely impair the judgment of a truck driver.

Symptoms of fatigue vary between drivers but may include:

  • Yawning
  • Poor Concentration
  • Restlessness
  • Drowsiness
  • Slow Reactions
  • Missing Road Signs
  • Difficulty Staying in Proper Lane

Hours of Service

The Hours of Service regulations differ for property-carrying drivers and passenger-carrying drivers. For property-carrying drivers, the rules are as follows:

  • Drivers can drive 11 hours maximum after being off duty for 10 consecutive hours.
  • Drivers may not drive beyond 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty and being off duty for 10 straight hours.
  • Drivers may drive if 8 hours or less have passed since off-duty or sleeper berth period of a minimum of 30 minutes.
  • Drivers may not drive after 60 – 70 hours on duty in 7 – 8 consecutive days. The 7 – 8 day period will restart after the driver is off duty for 34 or more consecutive hours.
  • Drivers may split their required 10-hour off-duty period as long as one off-duty period is a minimum of 2 hours and the other period is at least 7 consecutive hours spent in the sleeper berth. Under the sleeper berth provision, pairings must equal to at least 10 hours. When combined, neither period counts toward the maximum 14-hour driving window.

Passenger-carrying drivers have similar regulations they must follow, but their driving limits are changed to 10 hours and 15 hours for the first two regulations. Passenger-carrying vehicles require drivers who use a sleeper berth, take at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth, and split the sleeper berth into two periods provided neither period is less than 2 hours. All sleeper berth pairings must equal at least 10 hours.

The split sleeper berth rule is fairly new and was specifically put in place by the FMCSA to combat driver fatigue. If a driver fails to follow these regulations, they can cause severe injuries in a collision.

Where to Get Help After Being Involved in a Truck Crash

Our Kansas City truck crash attorneys at Peterson & Associates, P.C. recognize the importance of these regulations. If a driver fails to follow regulations and becomes fatigued while operating a large tractor-trailer, 18-wheeler, or big rig, a severe collision can occur, and multiple parties can sustain injuries. Understanding who is responsible is critical to a truck accident claim.

If you or someone you love was injured in a crash, call our Kansas City truck accident attorneys at 816-888-8888. We take the time to examine your case and help you move forward in the most favorable manner possible.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA): Summary of Hours of Service Regulations