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A Guide to Understanding Hours-of-Service Rules for Truck Drivers

Commercial truck driving is known for its grueling hours, but there are federal regulations in place to ensure that truck drivers do not drive while fatigued and put themselves and others at risk of injury.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) refer to these regulations as the Hours-of-Service (HOS) rules because they directly govern how many hours a truck driver can spend behind the wheel in a given period. All commercial truck drivers are required by law to follow HOS rules and many must record their HOS in an FMCSA-compliant Electronic Logging Device (ELD).

What Are the New Hours-of-Service Rules?

In 2020, the FMCSA and DOT updated HOS rules to improve highway and road safety. The latest version of these regulations for property-carrying drivers includes the following:

  • 11-Hour Rule: Within a 14-hour period, truckers can drive for no more than 11 hours after a total of 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 14-Hour Rule: Truckers are prohibited from driving after the 14th consecutive hour from the time they started duty. This means that, on the 15th hour, they are required to go off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.
  • 60/70-Hour Rule: No trucker can drive for more than 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days. This is often referred to as the 7/8 consecutive day period, and it restarts only once the trucker has spent a minimum of 34 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 30-Minute Break Rule: Truckers must take a 30-minute break from driving at least once every 8 hours. Truck drivers may spend these 30 minutes on duty as long as they are not driving.

What Happens if Truck Drivers Violate the Hours-of-Service Rules?

Truck driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of truck crashes in the United States. If truckers drive fatigued and violate HOS rules, they will be subject to various penalties.

If law enforcement discovers that a truck driver is in violation of HOS rules, they will have reason to shut a truck down for 10 or 34 hours — whichever amount of time the HOS rules require — and fine the driver or their employer. This fine could be as much as $16,000 or, if hazardous freight is involved, over $75,000. In addition, a truck driver may have their compliance, safety, and accountability (CSA) score or their employer’s safety rating reduced.

Suppose a driver is involved in a truck crash after violating HOS rules. In that case, the truck driver and/or their employer may be considered negligent because they violated federal laws meant to keep others on the road safe. As such, they could be held liable for any damages suffered by the other party. This may amount to hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, as commercial truck crashes often result in severe or fatal injuries.

It is always necessary to account for HOS rules when assigning trips to truck drivers, not only to follow the law but also to safeguard everyone on the road, including the truck drivers themselves.

FMCSA Hours-of-Service Exemptions

Exemptions to HOS rules include the following:

  • 30-Minute Break Exemption: Short-haul drivers are exempt from this rule if they are within a radius of 100 or 150 air miles from their regular work reporting location and are driving non-CDL vehicles.
  • 16-Hour Short-Haul Exemption: This exemption allows truckers to extend the 14-hour rule to 16 hours for one day out of every 7 consecutive days if the trucker returned to their normal work reporting location and was (a) released from duty at that specific location for the previous 5 tours or (b) released from duty before 16 hours on duty and after spending 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • Emergency Conditions Exemption: If a state of emergency has been declared by either a federal or state institution, HOS rules may be temporarily suspended in that area.
  • Adverse Driving Conditions Exemption: If the trucker comes upon adverse driving conditions that they did not know about or could not have been reasonably expected to know about, their maximum driving limit as outlined in the HOS rules — except the 14-hour rule — may be extended by up to 2 hours.

Trucking Accident Attorneys at Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman

Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman is a national law firm with extensive experience in truck accident law. With a triple board-certified attorney, Diane Marger Moore, on our acclaimed legal team, our Los Angeles-based firm is prepared to help you seek justice after being injured in a commercial truck collision.

Just a few of our case results include the following:

  • $20 million verdict won against Ride the Ducks International;
  • $15 million recovered for the victim of a tractor-trailer accident;
  • $8.5 million verdict achieved against Tyson Foods; and
  • More than 60 truck collision cases resolved in favor of our clients through seven-figure settlements.

If you have been injured in a truck crash, contact Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman online today for a free consultation.

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