Posted in Truck Accident on March 15, 2023
Truck accident victims often suffer severe, life-altering injuries due to the sheer size and weight of commercial trucks. While a range of factors can contribute to these accidents, the length of time a truck driver spends on the road is often an underlying cause.
To combat this, both government agencies and private trucking companies have regulations in place to limit how long a truck driver can drive.
At Zaner Harden Law, we’ve seen first-hand the consequences of fatigued truck driving. When we help truck accident injury victims file claims against truck drivers, the regulations limiting commercial driving hours often come into play.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Colorado truck accident, contact us at (720) 613-9706 for a free consultation, or read on to learn more about these regulations.
The laws establishing the maximum driving time are primarily regulated by federal authorities, with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency under the United States Department of Transportation, having a key role in these regulations.
The FMCSA has set hours-of-service (HOS) regulations that limit the length of time a truck driver can operate a vehicle based on certain conditions. They’re designed to prevent truck drivers from driving while fatigued, thus reducing the risk of accidents.
Under HOS regulations, property-carrying truck drivers are limited to 11 hours of active driving after 10 consecutive hours off duty. This means they must take at least a 10-hour break between each 11-hour period of driving.
Aside from the active driving limit, truck drivers must also take into account their 14-hour “on duty” limit. This includes any time spent in the truck, even if the driver isn’t actually driving.
After 14 consecutive hours on duty, the driver must have at least 10 consecutive hours off duty. The 14-hour period can’t be extended, even if the driver has taken multiple breaks during that period.
Several exceptions apply to these limits, but one of the most common is the adverse driving condition exception. When a commercial truck driver encounters unanticipated adverse conditions behind the wheel, they may extend the 11-hour limit by up to two hours.
The FMCSA defines “adverse driving conditions” as unusual conditions to the road or traffic. Examples include bad weather (such as snow or ice) or a significant traffic jam due to an accident.
In addition to the 11- and 14-hour limits, FMCSA regulations also mandate a 30-minute break after 8 consecutive hours of commercial truck driving. Any period of 30 consecutive minutes not spent behind the wheel may satisfy this requirement.
Truck drivers must also adhere to limits on their weekly on-duty time. Those who don’t drive every day of the week are subject to a limit of 60 hours on duty in a period of seven consecutive days.
Drivers who drive daily have a limit of 70 hours on duty in eight consecutive days. Between seven or eight consecutive days, all commercial truck drivers must take at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.
Trucking companies may, in addition to the above regulations, impose their own limits on how long a driver can drive. The FMCSA limits are simply the minimum regulations a trucking company must abide by, and companies are free to enforce stricter regulations on their drivers if they wish.
For example, many trucking companies impose their own “10-hour rule,” which limits drivers to 10 hours of driving time on any given day, rather than the 11-hour limit mandated by the FMCSA.
These additional restrictions, while not legally required, can help trucking companies lower their accident risk and prevent drivers from teetering the line of HOS regulations.
While federal regulations are a step in the right direction, truck accidents still occur far too often. Eleven hours at the wheel, while legally allowed, can be extremely taxing on drivers, and there are minimal regulations on the amount of sleep a truck driver must have between shifts. These effects can be even more pronounced when drivers disregard the regulations altogether.
When attorneys with Zaner Harden Law take on a case, we look at all factors which may have contributed to the wreck, including adherence to HOS regulations. We understand that these limits are important for a driver’s safety and the safety of all drivers on the road, which is why we fight for justice relentlessly when violations are discovered.
Even when regulations are followed, accidents can still occur due to a combination of factors, including negligent driving and faulty equipment.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a commercial truck, don’t wait to get help. Contact our truck accident lawyers in Denver today for a free consultation. Together, we can fight for the compensation you deserve.