Whether you live in Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky, or Illinois, each state sets its own rules that drivers must follow. That means that if it’s the law for you to stop so emergency vehicles can pass, yield to the right-of-way of a pedestrian, or go a certain speed limit in an area, then a city or county official or state lawmaker decided that would be the case.
While that same logic applies to a certain degree in the case of trucking regulations, the federal government has a lot more of a hands-on approach to crafting rules, policies, and procedures that apply to the tractor-trailer industry and truckers in general. One such policy that the federal government instituted and updated as recently as 2020 is hours of service (HOS) regulations.
As truck accident attorneys, we see many cases where trucker negligence, like hours of service violations, seriously injured motorists. We’ll cover what those HOS regulations currently are and how truckers most commonly violate them below.
Who Sets Hours of Service Regulations?
The U.S. Department of Transportation sets Hours of Service requirements. The latest ones went into effect in Sept. 2020.
Why Are Hours of Service Regulations in Place?
Even though only 5% of all registered vehicles were trucks in 2019, truckers drove at least 9% of all highway miles. At least 4,119 individuals lost their lives in large truck-involved accidents in 2019, with a staggering 67% of the decedents being passenger car occupants and an additional 15% either motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.
These accidents’ occurrences are attributable to a few different factors. Some of the more notable ones include:
- Trucker fatigue
- Braking concerns
- Poor truck maintenance
- Drug or alcohol intoxication
As previously mentioned in this article, federal regulations have been implemented to respond to many of these concerns. Hours of service laws aim to curb fatigue-related crash rates.
What Are the Current Hours of Service Regulations?
The latest hours of service rules implemented in 2020 dictate how long truckers can operate their tractor-trailers before needing to take mandatory breaks. These regulations vary depending on whether a trucker is carrying property or passengers.
Hours of service rules that apply to tractor-trailer operators include:
Shifts: Truckers carrying property are restricted to a maximum 11-hour shift, provided that they’ve been off duty for ten hours pre-trip and those 11 hours fit within a single 14 consecutive hour time period. Passenger-carrying truckers can only drive a maximum of ten hours daily and are required to spend eight consecutive hours off duty before their shift.
Breaks: Federal regulations require truckers to take at least one 30-minute break after driving at least eight cumulative hours without rest. The only requirement is that this 30-minute break is a non-driving one.
Sleep periods: Property-carrying truckers must spend their mandatory 10-hour off-duty period inside and outside their sleeping berths. While truckers must spend at least eight hours within the berth, it’s up to the trucker’s discretion on how they spend the additional two.
Overall workweek hourly limits: There are limits on how many hours truckers can work during a single week. Neither property nor passenger-carrying truckers may drive more than 60 or 70 hours across seven or eight consecutive days. Federal regulations specify that property-carrying truckers may only restart their consecutive seven or eight-day work week after having taken 34 or more off-duty hours to rest.
Exceptions that apply to adverse driving conditions: Federal regulators permit both property and passenger-carrying truckers to extend their respective 11/14-hour or 10/15-hour windows by an additional two hours if they encounter adverse driving conditions during their trip.
Fatigue tends to mount the more a trucker is out on the road, so the above-referenced regulations apply primarily to long-haul truckers who spend multiple days out on the road.
Short-haul drivers aren’t required to abide by 49 CFR §395.8 and §395.11, which are the federal hours of service regulations. Federal officials define short-haul truckers as ones operating their trucks within a 150 air-mile radius of their standard work hub. These tractor-trailer drivers must ensure that their maximum duty period does not exceed 14 hours.
What Are the Most Common Hours of Service Violations?
Trucks have long been required to log their trips. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) began mandating the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) in 2017. There’s been a reduction in hours of service violations since then. Data compiled by the trucking news agency Overdrive shows that there were 489,000 hours of service violations in 2017. There were 313,000 in 2020.
Just over 8% of all trucking violations reported in 2020 were related to hours of service. Most of these were recorded out west, where Colorado and Wyoming top the list with hours of service enforcement efforts. Illinois and Ohio are the only two midwestern states to make it on the top 20 list for hours of service enforcement.
The most common hours of service violations in the ELD era are when truckers:
- Exceed their 11-hour driving or 14-hour time frame limit
- Travel before they’ve finished their ten off-duty hours
- Fail to take their mandatory 30-minute break
At the same time, there’s been a significant decrease in the following violations since the implementation of ELD:
- Issues involving the falsification of records
- Missing log concerns
- Form and manner citations
Transportation officials may audit a trucker’s log when visiting a weight station or during a traffic stop. An official may render a truck out of service until its operator complies with HOS rules. Fines may also be imposed for these violations.
What Can You Do If a Trucker’s Hours of Service Violation Left You Injured?
Fatigue isn’t all that different from alcohol, drug intoxication, or distractions in terms of how negatively it can impact a trucker’s ability to operate their tractor-trailer safely. A sleepy or otherwise tired trucker may experience delayed braking and not notice obstructions, factors that may leave others around them vulnerable to getting hurt.
Fortunately, personal injury laws may allow you to recover compensation when a trucker’s hours of service violation or other negligence results in injuries. Our Thomas Law Offices attorneys are ready to help you navigate your truck accident claim.