Every day, drivers must share roads and highways with an increasingly large number of commercial trucks. 18-wheelers, semis, and other tractor-trailer trucks are now a common sight. Now more than ever, we might be concerned about the potential safety hazards posed by such heavy, unwieldy vehicles. The apprehension is only natural – the average fully loaded 18-wheeler can be many times larger and heavier than the average car. A collision between the two is completely one-sided.
Drivers aren’t the only ones concerned about truck accidents; the federal government imposes very strict restrictions and regulations on the trucking industry – regulations aimed at ensuring the safety of those on the highway, including truck drivers themselves. While some laws set forth legal consequences which occur in the wake of an accident, most others are concerned with prevention.
One aspect of federal trucking laws are the Federal Hours of Service (HoS) Regulations. This set of laws is designed to reduce truck driver fatigue and allow (or force) them to get sufficient rest while on the job. Some studies show that as many as 1 in 10 truck drivers admit to driving while feeling drowsy. This creates significant safety hazards; sleep-deprived drivers have slower reaction speed, impaired judgment, and lack of coordination – symptoms comparable to intoxication.
HoS regulations have changed several times in recent years, and have been the subject of scrutiny by lawmakers, industry officials, and the courts. As they currently stand, HoS regulations are composed of three provisions:
The 11-hour limit states that, during the 14-hour window after a truck driver comes on duty, they may only operate a truck for 11 hours. The 14-hour window does not reset until a driver has completed 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time.
The 60/70-hour rule makes a distinction between the types of a company a driver might work for. If he is employed by a company which operates 6 days a week, he can only drive for up to 60 hours in a 7-day period. If he works for a company which operates 7 days a week, however, the limit is 70 hours in a 8-day period.
Finally, the 34-hour restart provision is a relatively new rule designed to avoid the long downtimes which occurred under previous incarnations of trucking law. It allows drivers to reset their 60/70-hour rule calculation period if they complete 34 consecutive hours off-duty.