How Can Hours of Service Regulations Affect Your Truck Accident Case?

woman driving large truckOne of the most common causes of truck accidents is fatigued or drowsy driving. Commercial truck drivers face intense pressure from their employers to meet tight deadlines, pushing them to drive when they are over-tired.

When our truck accident lawyers in Sacramento take a case involving a commercial vehicle, we check to see if the driver was violating federal or state hours of service (HOS) regulations at the time of the crash. These rules set limits on the number of consecutive hours a driver can spend behind the wheel before he or she must take a break.

If your truck accident was caused by a violation of these rules, it may help prove that the driver was at fault and support a case for fair compensation for your damages.

Federal Regulations on Hours of Service

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has separate hours of service regulations for property-carrying drivers and passenger-carrying drivers.

Property-Carrying Drivers

The FMCSA sets the following regulations on the number of consecutive hours these drivers can operate their vehicles:

  • 11-hour limit – Drivers can drive for a maximum of 11 hours after being off duty for 10 straight hours.
  • 14-hour limit – They cannot drive more than 14 hours after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Spending more hours off duty does not extend this 14-hour limitation.
  • Mandatory breaks – They are only allowed to drive if eight hours or less have passed since their last off-duty or sleeper berth period of at least 30 minutes.
  • 60/70-hour rule – Drivers are prohibited from driving after spending between 60 and 70 hours on duty over a period of seven or eight straight days. The seven or eight consecutive days restarts after the driver takes 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

Passenger-Carrying Drivers

Drivers carrying passengers must follow these hours of service regulations:

  • 10-hour limit –Drivers can operate their vehicles for a maximum of 10 hours after being off-duty for eight straight hours.
  • 15-hour limit – Drivers cannot operate their vehicles after having been on-duty for 15 hours after being off-duty for eight consecutive hours.
  • 60/70-hour rule – Drivers cannot operate their vehicles after having been on duty between 60 and 70 hours over seven or eight consecutive days.
  • Sleeper-berth rule – Any drivers who use a sleeper berth must spend a minimum of eight hours in the sleeper berth. They can split time in the sleeper berth into two periods, as long as neither period is less than two hours.

California Regulation on Breaks

Exceptions to the FMCSA rules are California's transportation industry regulations. Under these laws, transportation employees, such as truck drivers, are generally entitled to one 30-minute meal break for every five hours they work. They are also entitled to a 10-minute rest break for every four hours they work.

Congress has introduced legislation that would allow federal regulations to take precedence over California's rules. This would mean drivers would get a rest break only after eight consecutive hours of driving.

Contact a Sacramento Truck Accident Attorney Today

If you were injured in a truck accident caused by some form of negligence, an injury attorney from our law firm may be able to obtain compensation for your damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Schedule a free, no obligation legal consultation today to review your situation. We will not charge legal fees unless we obtain the compensation for your case.

Contact us today by calling (916) 777-7777 or completing a Free Case Evaluation form.