Hours of Service Violations and Truck Accidents


Trucking Accidents are Often Caused by Hours of Service Violations

Truck accidents are often caused by inattentive or distracted drivers in violation of the hours of service regulations.   We are experienced truck accident lawyers in St. Louis, Missouri who know how to identify when tractor trailer drivers have operated their tractor trailers in excess of the hours allowed by law. 

What are Hours of Service Violations?

The Hours of Service Regulations are rules designed to keep the public safe on the nation’s roads, interstates and highways.  When the rules are followed, there is less of a chance that a driver will be fatigued.  The regulations govern when and for how long a truck driver may operate a commercial vehicle.  With some exceptions, the hours of service regulations apply to most commercial vehicles operating in interstate commerce.  When the rules are not followed, the result is often personal injury caused by negligent truck drivers. 

The hours of service rules generally place limits on how long a driver can operate a vehicle and be on duty.  The rules are the fourteen hour rule, the eleven hour rule and the sixty hour/seven day rule and the seventy hour/eight day rule.  The specifics of the rules are found in Part 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

The 14-Hour Duty Limit:  This rule states that a driver can be on duty for no more than 14 hours after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours.  When a driver reaches 14 hours, he or she cannot drive again until the driver has been off duty for 10 consecutive hours.   Please see Section 395.3(a)(2) to learn more about this rule.

 The 11-Hour Driving Limit:  When a driver is on duty during the 14 hour period described above, the driver can only drive a truck for 11 hours.  Beginning July 1, 2013, a driver will not be able to drive if more than 8 hours have passed since the end of the last off-duty or sleeper birth period of at least 30 minutes.  Please see Section 395.3(a)(3) for more about this rule.

The 60/70 Hour Duty Limit:  If a company does not operate vehicles every day of the week, a driver is not allowed to drive after being on duty 60 hours during any 7 consecutive days.  If the company operates vehicles every day of the week, a driver may not operate a truck after being on duty 70 hours in 8 consecutive days.   The 60 or 70 hours can be restarted after a driver has at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.  This is called the “34-Hour Restart.”  After July 1, 2013, the restart rule will require at least 34 consecutive hours and at least two periods between 1:00 am and 5:00 am.  Additionally, the 34 hour restart will only be allowed once a week (every 168 hours).  

What is On Duty Time?

As personal injury attorneys who handle trucking cases in Missouri, we have identified many occasions when a driver has operated in violation of the hours of service rules because the driver did not properly log his “on-duty” time.  In general, on duty time under the federal regulations is time when a driver is working or required to be ready to work.  This includes time when a driver is doing any work for a motor carrier.  One example that frequently occurs is when drivers fail to count time loading or unloading their trailers.  This type of error can cause a driver to spend more than the allowed time operating a vehicle.  For detailed description of on-duty time please see section 395.2.  

How Do I Know if a Driver Violated the Hours of Service Regulations?

If you are involved in a truck accident with personal injuries, your attorney should be able to determine if the truck driver was driving in violation of the DOT regulations.  Truck drivers are required to keep a Driver’s Daily Log, which contains the “Driver’s record of duty status.”  Part 395.8 of the federal motor carrier safety regulations sets forth what must be included on a drivers’ log.  The logs must cover all 24 hours of every day and must be current as to the last change of duty status.  While there are exceptions to having to keep a log, many truck drivers are required to keep such records.

Your truck accident attorney may be able to evaluate the entries in a log book to determine how many hours a driver had been operating the tractor trailer at the time of the accident.  If the violations are not present on the logs, your trucking attorney may still be able to find violations by comparing the log books to supporting documents and the driver’s testimony.  For example your St. Louis trucking lawyer can compare the logs with times on bills of lading and other load identification documents, fueling receipts, toll tickets, and scale tickets.  The attorney can also compare point to point mileage distance with the entries on driver’s logs to determine if the logs are correct.

Occasionally, a police officer or highway patrol officer will review a truck driver’s logs at the scene of the crash to determine if there are hours of service violations.  Other times, a government inspector may check a driver’s log to evaluate compliance with the federal regulations.  These governmental inspections can serve as a basis to demonstrate that a trucking company or driver has a history of noncompliance with the federal motor carrier safety regulations.

What are the Consequences for Falsifying Logs?

 

It is not unusual for truck accident attorneys to uncover evidence that a driver of commercial vehicle has not properly completed logs or has falsified logs.  Federal Regulation 349 CFR 395.8(e) states that the failure to complete the record of duty status activities, the failure to preserve a record of such duty activities, or making false reports in connection with such duty activities shall make the driver and/or the carrier liable for prosecution. 

 

 

 

 




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