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Truck Driver Fatigue: Hours of Service Regulations

The business of getting goods and products from one part of the country to another is an intricate system of warehouses, distributors and drivers all working together to increase company profits. Independent contractors and other companies who employ drivers of tractor trailers and other commercial vehicles are also motivated to provide the fastest service for their clients and employers. This has steadily led to more and more drivers reducing the amount of time between driving and getting back behind the wheel before they have had an adequate resting period.

The importance of alert drivers on our roadways is well documented. Each year car accidents are caused by distracted drivers, (i.e, texting), and fatigued drivers that haven’t had the proper amount of rest before getting behind the wheel. Regardless of the injuries that result from car accidents, few things compare to the catastrophic injuries and damage that can happen when a tractor trailer is involved in the accident or vehicle collision. With a maximum legal weight of 80,000 pounds, 55 foot turning radius and an average stopping time 40% greater than passenger vehicles its not difficult to see why trucking accidents account for some of the more severe automobile accidents on the road.

In 2002 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established to address this issue. The primary mission of FMCSA is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries. The activities of FMCSA are designed to contribute to ensuring safety in motor carrier operations through enforcement of safety regulations, targeting high-risk carriers and commercial motor vehicle drivers, improving safety information systems and commercial motor vehicle technologies, strengthening commercial motor vehicle equipment and operating standards, and increasing safety awareness.

In 2013 FMCSA began implementing the “Hours of Service” regulations to enforce restrictions on the amount of hours drivers were permitted to operate commercial vehicles without rest. There are different driving limits depending on whether the vehicle is carrying property or persons. In general, a commercial driver may not drive more than 11 hours in one day and may not be on duty more than 14 hours in one day. In addition, a driver may not drive more than 60 hours in a 7 day period or 70 hours in an 8 day period. A vehicle falls under this provision if it weighs 10,001 pounds or more, is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers not for compensation, 9 or more passengers for compensation, or transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards.

Truck accidents caused by fatigued drivers in violation of FMCSA rules carry heavy penalties. When a tractor trailer or commercial vehicle is involved in an accident the personal injury attorney should always determine if the company and driver were following all the required safety regulations, including the FMCSA “Hours of Service” regulations. Once retained an experienced Douglasville Personal Injury Attorney will immediately begin gathering information such as police reports, accident reconstructionists investigations, medical reports, company policy manuals, and driving logs which would illustrate the drivers adherence to federal and state regulations. Our truck accident lawyers are available to assist clients throughout Douglasville, Atlanta, Lithia Springs, Hiram, Austell, Dallas, and Villa Rica.