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Truck Driver Fatigue and the Federal Hours of Service Regulations

Truck driving is a hard and tedious job. When a tired driver is behind the wheel of a large truck that may contain dangerous cargo, disaster can result. If you were injured in a truck accident, an experienced truck accident lawyer in Houston can investigate the crash and determine if fatigue may have contributed to your accident and who is at fault. Call us today for a free case consultation to discuss your options for recovering compensation.

Dangers of Fatigued Driving

While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 684 people died in crashes caused by fatigued driving in 2021, other experts estimate these numbers are drastically underreported. The National Sleep Foundation attributes approximately 6,400 fatalities each year to drowsy driving.

The National Sleep Foundation says that driving after 20 hours of no sleep is like driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more. The National Safety Council says that driving while drowsy has similar effects to driving under the influence of alcohol, including:

  • Delayed reaction times
  • Impaired judgment
  • Less awareness of hazards
  • Difficulty to maintain attention
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased likelihood of falling asleep while behind the wheel

When you combine this extensive impairment with a vehicle that weighs up to 80,000 pounds, the results can often be catastrophic. Drowsy and fatigued truck drivers can cause accidents that result in serious injuries and death. In addition to the physical and emotional toll these avoidable crashes can have, they can also cause a significant financial effect. Drowsy driving accidents cause $109 billion in annual losses.

What Are the Hours of Service Regulations?

Recognizing the dangerous connection between fatigued drivers and disastrous crashes, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations were implemented to combat this problem. However, these rules have been loosened in the last few years, despite the known safety risks.

The current hours of service regulations set the following upward limits for truck drivers who are subject to their mandate:

  • Truck drivers cannot drive more than 11 consecutive hours in a 14-hour window. They must take at least three hours off duty during the 14-hour window. After these 14 hours have passed, they must take a 10-hour break.
  • Truck drivers cannot be on duty for more than 70 hours in a work week (defined as 7 consecutive days). After 70 hours of on-duty work have accumulated, they must take at least 34 hours off.
  • Truck drivers must take a 30-minute break after they have driven for a period of 8 consecutive hours.

There are different rules for drivers carrying passengers, who have sleeper berths, or who are intrastate drivers.

How Truck Driver Hours Are Tracked

Federal law requires truck drivers to track their on- and off-duty hours. Historically, this was completed by using written logbooks, but these were easily manipulated. Drivers often kept two sets of logbooks: one that kept records that were in line with the hours of service regulations and one that showed the real data. However, today, drivers must log each 15-minute interval of their work in electronic logbooks.

An experienced Houston car accident attorney knows how to obtain these logbooks and other evidence to help establish driver fatigue contributed to the crash.

Contact Us Today for a Free Case Review with a Dedicated Houston Truck Accident Lawyer

The Doan Law Firm has the skills and resources necessary to hold trucking companies accountable for the harm they cause by pushing drivers to work beyond the hours of service. Call us today to take advantage of a free, no-obligation case review.

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