The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issues separate safety regulations regarding a truck driver’s hours of service. These FMCSA “hours of service” regulations address the important issue of driver fatigue. When truck drivers operate commercial vehicles while extremely fatigued or tired, serious trucking accidents can occur often resulting in devastating physical injuries including broken bones, traumatic brain injury, paralysis and even death.
Established to Help to Combat Driver Fatigue
The FMCSA regulations attempt to reduce the number of commercial trucking accidents by addressing the problem of trucker fatigue. By limiting the number of hours truck drivers may operate their vehicles or remain on duty (the total number of hours a driver can work in a row before resting), the hours of service regulations strive to prevent truckers from driving without taking adequate rest breaks.
Apply for Commercial Trucks and Drivers
These hours of service requirements apply to commercial trucks that are involved in interstate commerce, meet certain weight requirements (10,000 lbs. or more including goods or a gross vehicle rating of 10,000 lbs.) or transport hazardous materials. For purposes of the FMCSA regulations, a commercial truck is involved in “interstate” commerce when it hauls goods that travel into or through another state or country regardless of whether the truck itself traveled out of state.
To ensure compliance with FMCSA regulations, commercial truck drivers must keep track of all of their driving, duty and break time in a written logs and graph grids. Drivers will frequently use automatic on-board recording devices to assist in the logging process.
Daily Duty – Hours of Service Limits
Under the FMCSA regulations, a driver may be on duty for a period of no more than 14 consecutive hours. After a driver has reached 14 hours of duty time, that driver must remain off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours. Break times including rests and lunch or dinner will be included within the 14 hours of duty time.
“Duty” time encompasses a broad range of activities. Any time spent at the carrier’s or shipper’s plant, terminal or facility will fall within duty time (unless a driver is specifically relieved from duty). Other activities that fall within duty time include inspecting or servicing the vehicle (such as fueling or washing trucks), driving time, loading or unloading goods, supervising, training or repairing trucks. A driver’s time spent undergoing drug or alcohol testing (including traveling to and from the alcohol/drug testing site) is also duty time. Even time spent working at another paid job (even if not for another federal motor carrier) will be counted toward time on duty.
Daily Driving – Hours of Service Limits
Within the 14 consecutive hours of “duty” time, a driver may only spend 11 hours actually driving. There are also specific limits within rolling or floating seven or eight day periods (60/70 hours requirements) depending on whether the commercial trucking company operates their trucks on an every day basis. Drivers must also take 30 minute breaks for every eight hours of driving time. Additional regulations require a 34 hours “restart” period once a week. Driving limits may be extended for an extra two hours in the event of unexpected driving conditions such as snow, fog or unforeseen traffic or road closures. Commercial drivers may use approved sleeper berths to meet their rest requirements under the FMCSA regulations.
Exceptions to Hours of Service Regulations
Personal use of a commercial truck is not subject to the FMCSA’s hours of service restrictions. Other exceptions apply to: short hauls that do not require commercial driving licenses, certain agricultural operations, driver-salespersons, emergency relief, fire or rescue vehicles, federal government operations, movie and television production operations, school bus drivers and retail store operations.
The truck accident lawyers at Edelstein Martin & Nelson, LLP represent clients throughout Delaware and Pennsylvania who have been injured in commercial trucking accidents. Our Delaware truck accident attorneys are familiar with both FMCSA trucking regulations as well as state and local trucking laws. We have offices conveniently located in Wilmington, Delaware and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Call the Delaware truck accident lawyers at Edelstein Martin & Nelson, LLP today at (302)-295-5050 or toll free at (800) 300-0909 to schedule your free initial consultation or submit an online inquiry.