In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) made changes to the hours-of-service rules that apply to commercial truck drivers in the United States. The hours-of-service rules are designed to limit the time that a professional driver can be behind the wheel of a truck within a given period. The purpose of these rules is to ensure that truckers get a break and get sufficient rest.
While the rules were made several years ago, our Louisville truck accident lawyers know that they just went into effect on July 1, 2013. The delay in the rules going into effect was designed to allow for truck drivers and trucking companies to make changes and adjustments. There were also ongoing court battles during the delay period, which were resolved early this August and which affected some small aspects of the new FMCSA regulations.
New Hours-of-Service Rules in Effect
The new FMCSA hours-of-service rules made a number of changes. The most notable for the majority of truck drivers was a change to the average weekly hours that drivers may work. Under the previously-existing rules, truck drivers were permitted to operate a vehicle for up to 82 hours over the course of a work week. Now, the amount of time that a driver can drive the truck over the course of one week has been limited to 70 hours.
Once a driver has driven for 70 hours and reached his driving limit, he must stop and take a rest break that lasts for 32 continuous hours. The rest break must also include two full overnights of sleep before the driver is allowed to resume commercial-driving duties.
While some professional trucking associations objected to the new hours-of-service rules, the FMCSA made the change in an effort to reduce the number of truck accidents that occur as a result of drowsy driving. Driving while fatigued is incredibly dangerous, and is just as risky as drunk or distracted driving in terms of increasing the chances of an accident happening. With the existing hours-of-service rules, one FMCSA study estimated that as many as 6,000 accidents every single year happen as a result of truck drivers who were overtired and couldn’t pay careful attention behind the wheel.
The hope, of course, is that the new FMCSA hours of service rules will reduce the number of accidents and help to save lives. However, the regulations were challenged in court with the hope that they would be struck down. Despite arguments from professional trucking associates and challenges raised regarding how the FMCSA made the new rules, the court upheld most of the new regulations with one limited exception.
The court struck down the FMCSA requirement that drivers take a 30 minute break within the first eight hours of drive time. This was struck down only for short haul drivers, not for long-haul drivers. The FMCSA reacted quickly to the court’s change, with Trucking Info reporting on August 7th that the FMCSA will no longer be enforcing the 30-minute break requirement for short haul drivers.
If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident, call Shelton Law Group today at 888-761-7204 for a free consultation with a Louisville attorney.