Truck Driver Fatigue and the Federal Hours of Service Regulations

Truck Driver Fatigue and the Federal Hours of Service Regulations

Truck drivers hold many responsibilities. They are not only required to deliver goods on time but also to ensure the safety of all road users. Despite rigorous regulations, however, truck driver fatigue remains a pressing issue, significantly impacting road safety. This tiredness impairs reaction times, decision-making abilities, and overall alertness, increasing the risk of catastrophic accidents.

What Are the Hours-of-Service Regulations?

The Hours-of-Service (HOS) regulations are crucial guidelines established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to govern the working hours of anyone who crosses state lines while operating a commercial motor vehicle. These rules are designed to reduce accidents caused by driver fatigue, ensuring that drivers have adequate rest and are alert while driving.

Property-carrying drivers must obey the following regulations:

  • Drivers are permitted to drive for up to 11 hours following 10 consecutive hours off duty. 
  • Drivers cannot drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. 
  • To mitigate fatigue, drivers must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for 8 cumulative hours without a break of at least 30 minutes.
  • Drivers are not allowed to drive after 60/70 hours on duty over a period of 7/8 consecutive days. The 7/8 day period only resets after the driver takes 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

The Dangers of Truck Driver Fatigue

Truck driver fatigue poses serious risks not only to the truck drivers themselves but also to other road users. Fatigue significantly impairs a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. It reduces alertness and reaction time, making it difficult for drivers to respond quickly to sudden changes in traffic conditions or unexpected hazards on the road. Furthermore, fatigue can affect a driver’s decision-making process and ability to judge speed and distance accurately.

If a truck driver loses focus or falls asleep behind the wheel, a dangerous accident could occur. They could veer into oncoming traffic, collide with stationary objects on the side of the road, or even overturn their vehicle. Adhering to HOS rules is critical to avoid these events.

Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident Caused by Drowsiness?

In accidents caused by truck driver fatigue, the immediate responsibility may lie with the driver. However, the trucking company may also be liable if it uses unsafe scheduling practices or encourages non-compliance with HOS regulations. 

If an accident occurs as a result of these practices, the victim could pursue an insurance claim or lawsuit against the driver and the company. The trucking company can also be held directly responsible under the legal doctrine of vicarious liability, which holds employers accountable for the actions of their employees while they are working.

A Louisville truck accident attorney can help you identify the liable party by accessing and analyzing evidence such as logbooks, electronic logging devices, and data from onboard systems to verify HOS compliance. If any unscrupulous activities are discovered, your lawyer can leverage this evidence to build a strong case for compensation, covering your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. 

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney for a Free Consultation

Fatigue among truck drivers is a known hazard, often caused by non-compliance with federal regulations. At Sam Aguiar Injury Lawyers, our injury lawyers in Louisville are committed to holding those who cause these accidents accountable. If driver fatigue played a role in your truck accident, contact us today for a free consultation and learn how our attorneys can help you seek justice.