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Understanding Hours of Service Rules in Truck Accident Cases


Commercial truck accidents are often catastrophic. Small cars can’t remain intact in the face of the violent forces of an impact with an 80,000-pound vehicle.

Since truck driver fatigue is a common cause of collisions, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established Hours of Service (HOS) regulations. The goal is to limit truckers’ hours on the road to reduce the risk of fatigue and accidents. 

Hours of Service Regulations for Property-Carrying Drivers

The regulations for truck drivers differ depending on the cargo they’re transporting. If carrying property, such as consumer goods, the Hours of Service rules include:

  • Eleven-hour driving limit – Truckers can’t spend more than eleven hours driving after ten consecutive off-duty hours.
  • Fourteen-hour limit – Truck drivers can’t drive beyond the fourteenth consecutive on-duty hour after spending ten consecutive hours off duty.
  • Thirty-minute break – A thirty-minute break is a requirement for truck drivers if they drive for eight cumulative hours without an interruption of at least thirty minutes. The break can involve thirty consecutive minutes not spent driving, such as off-duty hours or spending time in the sleeper berth.
  • 60/70 hour limit – Truckers can’t drive beyond sixty on-duty hours in seven days, nor can they drive after seventy hours in eight consecutive days. However, the period restarts after at least 34 consecutive off-duty hours.
  • Adverse driving conditions – In adverse driving conditions, truck drivers can extend the eleven-hour limit or fourteen-hour driving window by no more than two hours.
  • Sleeper berth provision – The sleeper berth provision requires truckers to spend at least seven hours of their off-duty period in the sleeper berth. One of the off-duty periods must be at least two hours long.

Hours of Service Regulations for Passenger-Carrying Drivers

Truck drivers transporting passengers must also follow driving limits. However, the periods differ slightly. The Hours of Service rules include:

  • Ten-hour driving limit – Truck drivers can’t drive beyond ten hours after spending eight consecutive hours off duty.
  • Fifteen-hour limit – Truckers must not drive after spending fifteen hours on duty after eight consecutive off-duty hours.
  • 60/70 hour limit – Truck drivers can’t drive after 60 on-duty hours in seven consecutive days. They’re also not allowed to drive after completing 70 hours on duty in eight days.
  • Adverse driving conditions – Truck drivers can extend their ten-hour driving time or fifteen-hour on-duty period by up to two hours if they encounter adverse driving conditions.

The Hours of Service regulations also include a short-haul exception. It applies to passenger and property-carrying truckers. It exempts the driver from these requirements if they operate within a 150-air-mile radius of their regular reporting location and don’t exceed the fourteen-hour maximum duty period.

Who to Hold Liable After a Truck Accident

A truck driver might violate the Hours of Service regulations. You might think they’re at fault for the collision since they drove the truck. However, their employer could be as much, if not more, to blame.

You must gather evidence to determine who you can hold liable for your injuries. The trucker might be the only one responsible if they decide to exceed the maximum driving limit or skip the required break. However, the trucking company can be liable for encouraging an employee to violate the Hours of Service rules.

Injured in a Truck Accident? Contact Wagner Zemming Christensen, LLP

Truck accidents can have long-lasting consequences. You should not suffer because of someone else’s carelessness.

Wagner Zemming Christensen, LLP has fought for injured clients in Riverside, CA, since 2004. You can depend on us to seek the compensation and justice you deserve.

If you got hurt in a truck accident someone else caused, learn how we can help by calling us at 951-686-4800 right now.

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