November 20, 2014

In a previous blog post, we discussed the serious consequences that sometimes result when truck drivers are excessively fatigued. In that post, we noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that a driver who has been awake for 24 hours straight is equally impaired as someone who is legally drunk.

In July 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implemented new regulations regarding the total hours of service in which commercial drivers are allowed to operate. These so-called “HOS Regulations” are meant to reduce truck accidents by preventing overly fatigued drivers from continuing to operate across America’s roadways.

Truck drivers are now limited to driving for only 14 hours per workday but must stop for a break after 11 hours of continuous driving. The maximum allowable work hours per week for truck drivers has now been capped at a total of 70 hours. Truck drivers are also now required to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of their shifts.

The new regulations contain a provision aimed at allowing a truck driver’s natural body clock to “reset” by resting for a specified period of time when the body most requires rest. Currently, drivers who have reached their maximum 70-hour work week limit are not permitted to resume driving until they have rested for 34 consecutive hours. Additionally, drivers must have rested during the hours of 1:00 a.m. through 5:00 a.m. for two nights during that 34-hour consecutive rest period.

The new regulations are enforceable against any commercial vehicle. Commercial vehicles are generally defined as those that are part of a business and involved in interstate commerce. More specifically, the regulations apply to vehicles that also weigh at least 10,001 pounds or greater.

Is important to note that these restrictions also cover non-commercial vehicles that are used to carry the driver and 15 or more passengers. Vehicles carrying passengers for compensation are limited to traveling with only the driver and eight other passengers before falling under the ambit of the regulations.

The regulations also extend to vehicles transporting hazardous materials in amounts significant enough to require the display of placards.

Despite the changes in the commercial trucking regulations, truck accidents involving motorists are an inevitable reality of modern life. If you are a Pennsylvania resident who has been injured in a truck accident, you should know that there may be legal remedies available to you. For example, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your injuries if the responsible party was fatigued, driving while distracted or simply lacked sufficient training.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Hours of Service” Nov. 19, 2014