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What if a Truck Driver Violated Hours of Service Rules?

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Truck drivers’ income directly correlates to the number of miles they drive, and if they can drive for longer periods, they can increase their income.

However, the federal government has strict hours of service regulations, such as drive time and log book requirements. Our team at The The Louthian Firm Accident & Injury Lawyers can help you understand hours of service violations and how they affect your case. Contact our Columbia truck accident lawyer to learn more about filing a claim against a driver in violation of these industry rules.

Hours of Service and Log Book Rules for Truck Drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours of service regulations govern how long and when truckers can drive their 18-wheelers or over-the-road commercial vehicles to prevent fatigue and drowsiness. The FMCSA reports that up to 13% of accidents involving truck drivers had fatigued drivers. The federal government implemented these rules after studies showed that fatigue causes driver carelessness and slower reaction times.

Required breaks

Every eight hours, drivers need to take a 30-minute break. These truck drivers cannot drive during this time. However, they can still be on duty. For example, they may stop for fuel or unload their vehicles.

Driving hour limits

If truckers have seven-day routes, they cannot actually drive for more than 60 hours total during those seven days. If they have an eight-day route, they cannot exceed 70 hours of driving.

In addition, those driving property-carrying trucks cannot drive for more than 11 hours in a single day, and they need to have 10 hours off before they begin driving. Their shifts cannot exceed 14 hours. Those who drive passenger vehicles cannot drive more than 10 hours, and they need to have eight hours off before their drive time. Their shifts cannot exceed 15 hours.

Off-duty time

Though commercial truck drivers should have 10 hours off, they can divide this time off into multiple sessions. However, they need to be off-duty for at least two hours at a time. The same is true for drivers of passenger vehicles.

Inclement weather provision

When truckers encounter bad weather, they can extend their on-duty driving times. For example, drivers can extend their on-duty and drive time by up to two hours if they did not know and could not have predicted these conditions when they planned their trips.

Log book rules

The federal government provides log book rules for truck drivers. In addition to their personal, company and truck information, truckers’ log books record their time on- and off-duty, drive time, miles driven, maintenance, breaks, etc. They also have to inspect their truck’s lighting, steering, breaks, cargo doors, coupling, windshield wipers, horn and load-securing equipment. They cannot claim that they were off-duty during these checks and other maintenance.

Potential Log Book Violations

There are multiple types of hours of service violations. A common violation occurs when truck drivers adjust their records and increase their drive time and distance to make up for down periods or when they log down times as on-duty but not driving. Blocking or manipulating a truck’s electronic onboard recorder, which tracks vehicle drive time, is another violation. Regulations also require that drivers fill out log books every 24 hours. If they do not do so or they create a false book, they violate the hours of service laws.

Violation Reasons

Truck drivers do not receive pay based on the hours they work. Therefore, any maintenance, fuel stops and other non-driving tasks can impact their pay. However, they may think they can drive additional miles to make up that time. In addition, trucking companies often pressure their drivers to get their loads delivered as quickly as possible.

Liability for a Crash With Hours of Service Violations

Violating hours of service can increase fatigue and endanger trucker drivers and others on the road. If violations occur, truck drivers, their companies and their insurance companies may be liable for any accidents that occur. If there is proof that a truck driver violated the hours of service requirements, even without realizing it, the drivers and the company they work for are typically responsible for any accidents.

How To Prove Hours of Service Violations

If you get into an accident with a truck driver, you need professionals who can investigate violations regarding log books and hours of service. Our attorney Bert Louthian understands what to look for and how to prove negligence, willful conduct and gross negligence using GPS records, receipts, bills of lading, phone records, data recorders and witness statements. The accident report, vehicle damage, photographs, video surveillance, medical records and other surveys and documents can also reveal fault.

If you have questions or would like a case review of an accident involving an hours of service violation, contact The The Louthian Firm Accident & Injury Lawyers at (803) 592-6233.

Hours of Service Requirements FAQs

Do breaks need to occur at eight hours exactly?

Drivers can take breaks at any point during their eight-hour driving period. The purpose of this regulation is to ensure they do not drive more than eight hours at a time, so if they find a convenient place to stop and rest for 30 minutes on hour six, they can do so.

Do drivers who only have local routes need to complete a log?

If drivers’ routes are less than 100 miles from their offices, they may not have to keep a log book. However, they need to also return to the office within 12 hours every day to avoid the log book requirement.

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