Limitations on the number of hours commercial drivers can operate, and the frequency of their driving sessions, have existed for many years. However, despite these limitations, statistical data continued to demonstrate that driver error – particularly fatigue based errors – remained a major problem in the trucking industry. As such, in the summer of 2013, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented new regulations which changed the hours of service limits for commercial vehicle operators.
The purpose of the new regulations is to insure drivers have a meaningful opportunity to get the rest they need and thereby lessen the probability that they will be involved in fatigue-based accidents. In summary, the revised regulations provide that:
- Truckers cannot drive in excess of 11 hours, in total per day, or in excess of 8 hours at a stretch without taking a 30 minute break
- Truckers cannot work in excess of 14 hours per day
- Truckers cannot work in excess of 70 hours per week.
Further, given that the effects of fatigue can be cumulative and particularly dangerous if large blocks of hours are strung together, the regulations provide that drivers have rest periods totaling at least 34 hours per week, which must include two separate spans where they are resting from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.
Unfortunately, I and my fellow trucking attorneys can attest to the fact that the hours of service regulations are frequently violated. Why? One likely reason is the way the trucking industry typically pays its drivers: By the mile, as opposed to by the hour. This scheme creates incentives for truckers to violate these important safety regulations. And, in some instances, unscrupulous trucking companies actually encourage or even require their drivers to exceed the federal limits. Unfortunately, it is the public at large which pays the price.
What can you do? If you see violations occurring, I urge you to be a part of the solution. Speak up. Report it. How, you ask? The FMCSA maintains a toll-free hotline, called the “The Motor Carrier Safety hotline” which is available to everyone, including commercial vehicle drivers, to submit reports of actual or potential violations of the federal motor carrier safety regulations.
The number is: 1-888-DOT-SAFT (368-7238). It is toll-free and available nationwide. Violations can also be reported via the web at: http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov
For anyone interested, the text of the revised Hours of Service Rule can be found here