April 24, 2023
The U.S. Department of Transportation imposes rules on commercial trucking, including hours-of-service regulations governing when drivers must take breaks.
These rules, meant to ensure drivers are well-rested and alert, aim to reduce the number of fatal crashes. Nationwide, 4,842 large trucks were involved in fatal crashes in 2020, according to the National Safety Council. That’s 4 percent less than in 2019 and 33 percent more than in 2011.
To Whom Do Hours of Service Rules Apply?
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), “HOS” rules apply to “commercial motor vehicle” drivers. A “commercial motor vehicle” is defined to mean a vehicle that “is used on highways in interstate commerce to transport passengers or property” and:
- has a “gross vehicle weight rating” or “gross combination weight rating” of more than 10,000 pounds
- is designed or used to transport more than 8 passengers (including the driver) for compensation;
- is designed or used to transport 16 or more people, including the driver; not for compensation or
- is used to transport material deemed hazardous and transported in “quantity” requiring “placarding” under applicable regulations.
What Are the Hours of Service Rules?
The commercial trucking industry has many rules and regulations to protect drivers and others on the road. Driving-hour limitations, weight-load requirements, and other standards aim to reduce truck accidents.
The hours-of-service regulations are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations. Someone looking to gain a full understanding of the hours-of-service rules would be well advised to review the actual regulations, which are voluminous and may not be easy to digest in one sitting. Fortunately, the FMCSA has published a helpful “summary of hours of service regulations” which provides general information about the different requirements for property-carrying drivers and passenger-carrying drivers.
According to the summary, which is a useful starting point in beginning to understand the applicable regulations:
- Property-carrying drivers can drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty, while passenger-carrying drivers can drive, at most, 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
- 14-hour/15-hour shift limit: Property-carrying drivers cannot drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty, while passenger-carrying drivers cannot driver after having been on duty for 15 hours following 8 consecutive hours off duty. “Off-duty time” is not included in the respective 14- or 15-hour period.
- 11-hour/10-hour driving limit: While property-carrying drivers can drive 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty, passenger-carrying drivers can drive 10 hours after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
- Adverse driving conditions: The rules contain a limited exception for “Adverse Driving Conditions.” This exception allows property-carrying drivers to extend the 11-hour maximum driving limit and 14-hour driving window by up two hours in the case of “adverse driving conditions.” Passenger-carrying drivers are permitted to extend the 10-hour maximum driving time and 15-hour shift limit by up to two hours when “adverse driving conditions” are encountered. This term, “adverse driving conditions,” is defined as: “snow, ice, sleet, fog, or other adverse weather conditions or unusual road or traffic conditions that were not known, or could not reasonably be known, to a driver immediately prior to beginning the duty day or immediately before beginning driving after a qualifying rest break or sleeper berth period, or to a motor carrier immediately prior to dispatching the driver.”
- 60/70-hour limit: Property-carrying drivers cannot drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days, but a driver can restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking at least 34 consecutive hours off duty. Passenger-carrying drivers, meanwhile, may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
- 30-minute break rule: Property-carrying drivers are required to take a 30-minute break when they have driven for a period of 8 “cumulative” hours without at least one 30-minute interruption from driving activities.
- Split sleeper berth rule: Commercial truck drivers are entitled to a “sleeper berth provision.” Property-carrying drivers can split their 10-hour off-duty period provided that one off-duty period is at least two hours long and the other involves at least seven consecutive hours spent in the sleeper berth of the truck. There are other requirements. With respect to passenger-carrying drivers, they must take at least eight hours in the sleeper berth. They can “split” the sleeper berth time into two separate periods provided neither is less than two hours and they add up to at least eight hours.
- “Driver’s record of duty status” and “supporting documents”: The rules require commercial truck drivers to log certain information and retain certain supporting documents. In what is called a “short-haul exception,” drivers may be exempted from some of these requirements when operating within a 150 air-mile radius of the normal work reporting location.
As you might expect, the process of applying these rules to real-world scenarios can get complicated. That is why the FMCSA has published a helpful publication, “Hours of Service Examples,” which serves as a guide for applying the rules to hypothetical fact patterns. This publication is a guide, and does not have the force of law, but it remains a useful resource for people trying to establish compliance with the HOS rules.
Drivers and companies violating the hours-of-service rules can incur severe penalties. When such violation causes or contributes to a motor vehicle collision that hurts another motorist, that may be seen as some evidence of negligence if it proximately caused the injury. The injured motorist may assert a claim for related pain and suffering.
We Can help You After a New York Truck Accident
If you’ve been hurt in an accident involving a commercial driver who may have violated hours-of-service regulations, the experienced personal-injury attorneys at William Mattar P.C. can advocate for you to receive maximum compensation for pain and suffering. Contact us today, at (844) 444-4444 or by filling out a free initial consultation form.