The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the trucking industry to ensure the safety of truck drivers and those sharing the road with them. One way they do this is by setting hours of service (HOS) limits on how long a trucker can operate their vehicle. These rules are designed to reduce driver fatigue, which can lead to accidents.
The Problem with Truck Driver Fatigue
As of this blog post, trucking accidents across the country amount to 31,185 in 2022. As reported in the “Large Truck Crash Causation Study,” the FMCSA found that as much as 13 percent of trucking accidents can be due to fatigue. When drowsy driving can be just as severe as alcohol-impaired driving, what is being done to combat road fatigue?
Hours of Service Regulations
The hours of service regulations state that truckers can only drive for a certain number of hours before taking a break. The exact limits depend on the type of cargo being transported. For these regulations, truck drivers are split into two categories: passenger-carrying and property-carrying.
Passenger-carrying truck drivers, or those transporting people in a bus or coach, are limited to driving 10 hours in a 15-hour work day after having 8 consecutive hours off-duty. Drivers cannot continue operating after 60 hours on duty in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours on duty in 8 consecutive days.
Property-carrying drivers transporting goods in a tractor-trailer, tank truck, or other large vehicles, have a maximum 14-hour work day to drive a limit of 11 hours after having 10 consecutive hours off-duty. Similarly to passenger-carrying drivers, any truck drivers that have been on duty for 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days may not continue driving. They may, however, restart the 7/8 day period after taking at least 34 hours of off-duty rest.
Exceptions to the Regulations
Two prominent exceptions to these driving restrictions allow truck drivers to extend their driving hours. These exceptions involve:
- Adverse Driving Conditions - Unforeseen conditions like heavy rain, snow or congestion due to an accident can allow the truck driver to extend their on-duty and driving limits by 2 hours.
- Short-Haul Driving - Truck drivers are exempt from these regulations if they operate within a 150 air-mile radius of their work reporting location and do not work more than 14 hours per duty period.
Consequences for Violations
Truckers who violate the hours of service regulations may be placed Out-of-Service for 24 hours. This means they cannot drive or operate their