Federal Officials Adopt Provisions Limiting Truckers’ Maximum “Hours Of Service” And Imposing New Penalties For Violations

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) adopted new regulations revising the hours-of-service (“HOS”) safety requirements for commercial truck drivers, which become effective July 1, 2013. HOS regulations limit the number of hours a truck driver may operative his or her vehicle during any given period of time.

The new rule retains some of the old regulation’s provisions, such as an 11-hour daily driving limit, but also changes and adds others. Specifically, new regulation reduces the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work in a given week by twelve, from 82 down to 70.

The rule also requires drivers that have just worked eight hours to take a break of at least 30 minutes before driving again. Finally, the rule requires drivers that max out their weekly hours to rest at least two nights a week from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., which, according to the FMCSA, is when the driver’s “24-hour body clock demands sleep the most.” The rest requirement is part of the regulation’s “34-hour restart” provision that permits drivers to restart the clock on the work week by having at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.

Penalties for violating the new regulations are stiff. For an “egregious” violation, defined as driving more than 3 hours beyond the specified time limits, a company or driver could face maximum civil penalties of up to $11,000 per offense for a company and $2,750 for per offense for a driver.

As evidenced by the extent of the new regulations, driver fatigue is a highly-recognized and well-documented problem in the trucking industry. Drivers working without the proper amount of rest have been shown to have slower reaction times and exhibit an increased risk of causing an accident.

The issue is further compounded by the fact that, due to the nature of the industry, drivers have significant financial incentives to drive longer hours. Drivers are generally paid by the number of loads they can deliver or the number of miles they can cover. By driving faster or longer, drivers are able to deliver more loads or cover more miles, thereby making more money. In addition, truckers sometimes driver longer to make up for lost time, beat rush hour traffic, or to avoid bad weather.

Although the new regulations are certainly a step in the right direction towards combating the problem, driver fatigue will always be issue due to the incentives truckers have to work longer hours. Because of the size and weight of commercial trucks, improper or negligent operation of such machinery is especially dangerous. A negligent truck driver can cause disastrous accidents and inflict severe injury or death.

The Miami, Florida personal injury attorneys at Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured by the negligence of truck drivers and trucking companies. If you or someone you know has been injured in automobile accident, contact an injury attorney at Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. today.