In our last post, we briefly mentioned ongoing litigation connected to the death of some university students killed in a truck accident last year. The plaintiffs in those cases believe driver fatigue may have been a factor in the crash, and they are seeking to hold both the trucker and his employer liable.
As we noted last time, truck driver fatigue is a major impetus behind the so-called hours of service rules. These rules impose specific obligations on truck drivers, and failure to comply with the rules not only puts other motorists at risk, but opens truckers up to federal penalties and other legal liabilities.
The federal hours of service rules apply to both property-carrying drivers and passenger-carrying drivers. The rules for each are similar, but slightly different. For property-carrying drivers, the following are among the rules:
- A maximum of 11 driving hours after 10 consecutive hours on duty
- No driving at all after the 14 consecutive hours on duty, following 10 consecutive hours on duty
- Required rest breaks of at least 30 minutes after eight hours on duty
- No driving after 60/70 hours on duty over 7/8 consecutive days—the work week may be restarted by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off duty
There is one aspect of the restart provision which is currently suspended. The rule required truckers to take two rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., but that part of the restart provision is no longer in effect, though it may come back into effect in the future. In any case, truckers are required to record compliance with these rules and trucking companies are supposed to ensure their truckers are properly trained and supervised. In a future post, we’ll look at how a truck accident victim can leverage trucking safety violations in personal injury litigation.