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What are the Hours of Service rules and how do they affect truck accident litigation?

Truck accidents can occur for a variety of reasons, though there are some factors that come up with more frequency than others. Some of these factors tend to get more attention because of the public interest in effectively addressing them so as to reduce the risk of accidents. One of these factors is driver fatigue.

Driver fatigue can affect anybody, but truck drivers are particularly at risk because they spend so much time behind the wheel and work in an industry that constantly pushes its workers to maximize productivity. If you aren’t behind the wheel travelling toward your destination, you aren’t being productive. Unfortunately, many employers in the trucking industry ignore the risks of fatigue. 

The federal House of Service rules are one response to the problem. The rules are somewhat different for property-carrying drivers and passenger-carrying drivers. The former can be summarized as follows:

  • No driving for more than 11 hours while on duty, after 10 consecutive hours off duty
  • No driving at all after the 14th consecutive hour on duty
  • Required rest break of at least 30 minutes after 8 consecutive hours on duty
  • No driving after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.

Weekly work periods may be restarted by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off duty. The restart provision is a particularly important one, and has been the subject of much contention in the last couple years due to heavy lobbying from the trucking industry to make changes. In our next post, we’ll look at the changes that were recently made to the rule, and how the federal Hours of Service rules can come into play in truck accident litigation

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