HOURS OF SERVICE
Fatigued drivers are more likely to make mistakes, which is why the FMCSR include rules related to “hours of service.” Truck drivers are only permitted to drive so many hours before taking a break or getting some sleep. Drivers must comply with these hours-of-service rules if they engage in interstate commerce and drive a truck meeting one of the following descriptions:
- Weighs 10,001 pounds or more, including cargo
- Has a gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more
- Transports hazardous materials in quantities great enough to require a placard
- Meets other federal regulatory threshholds
The FMCA regulates the number of hours truckers are allowed to drive within a certain amount of time. One of the most important rules is the 14-hour driving window, which limits commercial drivers from driving more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period. Once the 14-hour period ends, a truck driver must go off duty for 10 consecutive hours.
Drivers are also limited to 60 to 70 hours of duty in a period of seven or eight days. If a trucking company does not operate vehicles seven days per week, then company drivers cannot drive commercial vehicles for more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days. If the company operates vehicles seven days per week, drivers are not allowed to drive commercial vehicles after being on duty for 70 hours in eight consecutive days. There is a legal way for drivers and their employees to get around the 60/70-hour rule. If a driver is off duty or in the sleeper berth of the truck for at least 34 hours, the clock resets. Finally, trucks are required to take a 30-minute break within the first 8 hours of their shift.
When drivers do not follow these rules, serious accidents are more likely to occur. One of the most notable examples in recent memory is the case of the driver who crashed into a limousine van carrying Tracy Morgan and another comedian. The driver, who had been awake for 28 hours prior to the crash, did not slow down when he should have and slammed into the other vehicle. Wal-Mart settled with Tracy Morgan for an undisclosed sum.
In this video clip, Butler Tobin cross-examines a trucking company’s “Safety Director” about the excessive hours that his truck drivers were spending on the road. When companies send their drivers out for too many hours of driving at at time, drivers can get tired and get sloppy. By sending their drivers out for too long, the company is not only violating federal law, but is putting other people on the road at risk.