One of the most common problems in the trucking industry is “fatigued drivers” or drivers who don’t get enough time to rest and sleep. They are more prone to committing mistakes and getting into accidents, no matter how experienced they may be. Tired drivers react slower and have reduced attention and awareness. Also, they cannot control their vehicles properly. In addition, fatigued driving is dangerous like drunk driving. Hence, the “Hours of Service (HOS)” rule was introduced to minimize or avoid fatigued driving.
“Hours of service” is the maximum amount of time drivers are allowed to be on duty. It includes driving time, and it specifies the number and length of rest periods to help ensure that drivers stay awake and alert.
The HOS rule is a form of benefit to the drivers while protecting the public at the same time. It is peculiar to commercial motor vehicle drivers due to the nature of their employment, like truck drivers, who often keep irregular hours. Many of them have to endure working through the night.
Generally, all carriers and drivers operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) must comply with HOS regulations (49 CFR 395). CMVs are those used as part of a business and are involved in interstate commerce. A vehicle is deemed a CMV if:
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The number of hours of sleep required depends on the type of vehicle: property-carrying or passenger-carrying. For property-carrying vehicles, the HOS rule is as follows:
Note that the law distinguishes between the time the driver is driving (or otherwise “in control of the vehicle”) and when the driver is on duty. Driving time is considered part of his on-duty time, but the 11-hour driving limit also covers it. In sum, the limit is that a driver is allowed to drive for a maximum of 11 hours, plus 3 hours of not driving but still on duty.
On the other hand, the following are the rules for a passenger-carrying vehicle:
The same principle in property-carrying vehicles applies to passenger-carrying vehicles. The on-duty limit subsumes the driving limit. The only difference is that drivers of passenger-carrying vehicles have fewer hours of rest while being allowed a longer on-duty limit.
A driver and the authorized motor carrier are liable for any violations regarding the hours of sleep rule. The most common violation perhaps is the falsification of logbooks and records regarding a driver’s work hours. Due to the prevalence of this violation, logbooks are routinely dubbed as “joke books” or “comic books” in the industry.
Despite this, both criminal and civil liability can attach to the driver and the commercial motor carrier if they are proven to have falsified log reports. This is true even if the commercial motor carrier is unaware of the falsification because the regulations impose strict liability on the carriers for driver’s violations.
If you have been injured in a truck accident call our personal injury attorney at (916) 270-6880 for a free consultation. Truck accidents are a specialized field that involves onerous regulations, industry practices, and increased insurance requirements. Accordingly, involving an experienced truck accident attorney in your case can greatly influence the success of your case.