Hours of Service Laws: What Every Truck Driver Needs to Know to Avoid Accidents

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Hours of Service Laws: What Every Truck Driver Needs to Know to Avoid Accidents

Federal law dictates that truck drivers can only be on the road for a certain number of consecutive hours. Furthermore, the government has also placed limits on how many hours you can be on the road in a given week as well as how long of a break you must take between shifts. While the law pertaining to consecutive hours driven has existed since 1939, the other laws mentioned above are relatively new. The more society learns about sleep, sedentary lifestyles, and attention, the more lawmakers are starting to realize how detrimental certain aspects of a truck driver’s job can be. For this reason, Hours of Service laws continue to change and grow. However, you can only use the law to your advantage if you know what it says.

The Basics of the Hours of Service Laws

House of Service laws state that a truck, driven by one driver, can only be in operation for 11 consecutive hours out of a 14-hour work day. Once the 14 hours have passed, you are required by law to have at least 10 hours of rest before returning to your duties on the road. What’s more, you can only be behind the wheel for 60 to 77 hours in any seven-day period, and you’re limited to 70-88 hours in any eight-day period.

Why So Many Rules?

At first glance, the specificity of these rules may seem arbitrary and excessive. Even some truck drivers have stated that limited hours means limited income and have argued for looser regulations. That being said, these regulations were created not to hinder drivers’ earning potential but to protect them and others on the road. Significant data exists that points to a strong correlation between prolonged hours on the road and increased rates of accidents, injuries, and fatalities. In fat, the single leading cause of truck driver-related accidents is driver fatigue. It’s this underlying current of a tendency to overwork and the dangers of doing so that have led lawmakers to favor narrower work restrictions for truck drivers.

What Happens If You Break the Law?

Unfortunately, even though Hours of Service regulations are in place and are a matter of Federal law, plenty of companies and drivers continue to push – and break – those laws. Drivers who break the Hours of Service laws without the consent of their company can still land the trucking company for which they work in serious trouble. Conversely, some companies force their drivers to work beyond the scope of the Hours of Service. This can put drivers in a situation where they’re forced to make an impossible choice: lose their job or face legal consequences if an accident occurs.

What Should Drivers Do?

If your trucking company adheres to the Federal Hours of Service laws, make sure you comply with those laws at all times. However, if your company tries to force you to work beyond the hours allotted in the Hours of Service, make sure to think carefully before complying. It would be better to defend your job in court than to be the defendant in court in an accident, personal injury, or vehicular manslaughter case. Your Union representative should be able to help you if you’re being forced to work beyond the scope of the Hours of Service.

If you have to choose between fighting your employer or defending yourself in an accident case, it’s obviously better to opt for the former. Going against your employer can seem risky, and it often is, but hurting someone else or getting hurt yourself due to a fatigue-induced accident would be far worse. If you’ve already been in an accident, it’s important to contact a driving law attorney in your area. Only an experienced traffic lawyer will be able to help you obtain the most beneficial resolution given the unique parameters and circumstances of your case.

 

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