Some of the most important federal regulations applicable to truck drivers are aimed at preventing drowsy driving crashes. Drowsy driving crashes are normally difficult to prove because, unlike with drunk driving, there are no objective tests for fatigue, and drivers do not usually admit they were over-tired. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations make it easier for victims to prove truck drivers were negligent, when the rules aimed at preventing drowsy driving crashes are violated.
Trucking Safety Rules Help Prevent Drowsy Driving Crashes
The most important truck safety rules aimed at preventing drowsy driving crashes are those limiting the number of hours truckers can be on duty before they are required to take a break. The hours-on-duty rules include the following limitations on truckers who transport cargo in a commercial motor vehicle:
- A trucker can drive for a maximum of 11 hours over the course of the day.
- A driver can be on duty for a maximum of 14 hours a day, and must have at least 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time each day.
- Generally, truckers may not spend their off-duty time in their trucks. Drivers who have a sleeper birth in the truck must spend at least eight consecutive hours in the sleeper birth, if they take advantage of the sleeper birth provision. They can spend the additional two hours either in the sleeper birth or out of it, as long as they are off-duty.
- After eight hours of driving, long-haul truck drivers are required to take a rest break of at least 30 minutes.
- Truck drivers are allowed to drive a maximum of 60 hours over a seven day period and no more than 70 hours over an eight day period. After reaching the maximum number of hours over seven or eight consecutive days, a driver must take a rest break of at least 34 consecutive hours of off-duty time.
Drivers who transport passengers are subject to even stricter limits regarding the number of hours on duty. For example, a driver is permitted to transport passengers for 10 hours per day, rather than the 11 hours drivers who operate cargo trucks can drive. The driver transporting passengers can drive for up to 10 hours only after eight consecutive off-duty hours.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations § 395.8 (FMCSR) also mandates every driver to record his or her duty status over 24 hour periods, using specific recording methods. A personal injury attorney representing a truck accident victim will subpoena the on-duty records of a truck driver to determine if the driver violated the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations for hours on-duty. If a violation of FMCSRs is found, the on-duty records will become evidence to help show driver fatigue was the cause of the truck accident. This, in turn, can help prove the truck driver was negligent.
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