Trucker Hours of Service Law and How it Impacts Personal Injury Claims - The Eberst Law Firm

While truck accidents lead to horrible consequences, what’s even worse about these collisions is the fact that, in many instances, they’re entirely preventable. Truckers often cause devastating injuries and deaths because they push themselves too hard, and decide to drive while severely fatigued.

Even though truckers are well aware of federal laws that are designed to stop fatigued driving, they often ignore those rules. In some cases, however, the trucking company is to blame for ordering drivers to continue to stay behind the wheel. Whoever is to blame, the attorneys with The Eberst Law Firm know how to investigate trucking accidents and determine who is at fault.

If you’ve suffered an injury in a trucking accident caused by a violation of FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) hours of service rules, please get in touch with us for a free consultation. You can give us a call at 888-CALL-JON, or you can contact us online.

What is the Hours of Service Rule?

In an effort to reduce instances of fatigued driving, the FMCSA imposed hours of service limits on commercial truckers. These rules cover the number of hours truckers can be behind the wheel. Here’s a quick look at the weekly and daily hours limits, as well as FMCSA rules regarding breaks that truckers must take.

Hours Allowed in One Week

The 60/70 Hour Rule mandates that truck drivers can’t drive for more than 60 hours over a 7-day period. They also can’t operate their vehicles for more than 70 hours over an 8-day period. Once the driver has taken off for at least 34 consecutive hours, the 60/70 Hour Rule resets.

Hours Allowed in One Day

A truck driver can only be on duty for a maximum of 14 consecutive hours after being off duty for 10 straight hours. The definition of “on duty” includes more than driving. It also means unloading and loading their truck, along with any other work-related duties. During the 14-hour period, a driver can only be on the road for a maximum of 11 hours.

Required Breaks

If a driver has been on the road for a total of 8 hours, they must then take a 30-minute break. They can perform other work-related tasks during this time, but they can’t be behind the wheel.

What Happens if the Hours of Service Rule is Broken?

The penalties for violating hours of service trucking regulations are substantial. If a law enforcement agency discovers a violation, an officer has the authority to shut down the operation of a truck for anywhere from 10-34 hours.

The fines can be significant as well. Depending on who is found to be at fault for the violation – the driver or the trucking company – the guilty party can face a fine of as much as $16,000. If the truck is carrying hazardous cargo, the fine can skyrocket to as much as $75,000.

Who’s Liable for a Break in the Hours of Service Rule?

If a truck driver breaks the hours of service rule, and causes an accident due to driving while fatigued, the driver, as well as the company that employs that driver, could face liability. The driver or employer will be considered negligent due to violating federal laws. Since trucking accidents can result in severe injuries or fatalities, the damages can often run into the hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of dollars.

However, proving this negligence requires solid evidence – this evidence can only be gathered through a detailed investigation of the accident. That’s just one of the many reasons why you’ll need to hire a truck accident attorney as soon as you can.

Thankfully, there are a lot of potential ways your attorney may be able to gather evidence. The FMCSA is gradually requiring that trucks have electronic logging devices. These devices track whether or not a driver is complying with hours of service regulations. Obtaining work hours is getting much easier.

There are other methods an attorney can prove hours of service violations. All commercial trucks are required to carry so-called “black boxes” that contain a wide range of data. These boxes can show not only how long a truck was in operation, but also its speed, braking and other information that can be critical after an accident occurs.

Attorneys can also obtain a driver’s cell phone records, toll tickets, credit or debit card statements, and other evidence that can show whether or not that driver was violating hours of service rules.

Injured in a Truck Accident? Contact The Eberst Law Firm

As well-meaning as federal hours of service are, too many truck drivers and trucking companies ignore these rules on a regular basis. Drivers may feel they have to violate the rules in order to meet company-mandated deadlines. They might push themselves because they want to finish their deliveries in time to be home with their families for the holidays.

Trucking companies are just as much to blame. They want to make as much profit as they can, even if that means ordering drivers to work while fatigued. A nationwide shortage of truckers is making things even worse. Many truckers are forced to violate federal rules because the company simply doesn’t have enough drivers.

It really doesn’t matter who is to blame when an accident results from an hours of service violation. All accident victims care about is obtaining the compensation they deserve to pay for the suffering they’ve had to endure. Medical bills, lost wages and other accident-related costs can add up extremely quickly – victims are entitled to fair compensation.

At The Eberst Law Firm, we have a great deal of experience handling truck accident cases. Our attorneys also have an impressive track record of success. You can take advantage of our skill and experience by getting in touch with us for a free case review. Just use our online contact form or give us a call at 888-CALL-JON to learn more about how we may be able to help.