Because of the danger that comes with driving a large truck, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) heavily governs all aspects of truck driving, including how long a driver can be on the road. These regulations, called hours of service laws, are strict and violators can face fines and other penalties.
In addition, if the driver violated his hours of service and caused an accident, he may be liable for all damages the accident caused.
How do hours of service rules work?
Depending on whether the truck driver is driving passengers or property, FMCSA regulations only allow him to drive a specified number of hours under certain conditions before he must take a break.
For example, passenger truck drivers can only drive for 10 hours after eight consecutive off-duty hours. In addition, these drivers cannot drive after being on duty for 15 hours, even after 8 consecutive off-duty hours.
Property truck drivers, on the other hand, may drive 11 hours after 10 consecutive off-duty hours but cannot drive after the 14th consecutive hour since coming on-duty.
Neither passenger nor property truck drivers are allowed to have more than 60/70 on-duty hours over seven/eight consecutive days. There are other provisions regarding required rest periods or breaks, sleeper berth utilization, and when on-duty periods restart.
Why does it matter?
Trucker fatigue can have deadly consequences. In a truck/passenger vehicle accident, the sheer size of the truck means that the damage primarily occurs to the occupants of the other vehicle. And sleep deprivation or extreme fatigue can reduce a trucker's response times, impair his judgment, and lead to an accident.
Who keeps track of these hours & what do these records do?
Most trucks have a "black box" that records pertinent information, such as miles traveled, RPM, speed, and other data regarding driving history. However, if the truck does not have one, drivers must, by law, maintain accurate logs in a physical notebook. Drivers must note their time on-duty and off-duty, in a sleeper berth, and on-duty but not driving.
This information may be critical to proving (or disproving) whether a truck driver was adhering to the hours of service rules at the time of the accident.
If, for example, a truck driver drove more than the FMCSA permits, you can use that information to prove that he was fatigued and that this fatigue led to the accident and your injuries. This evidence might also support a claim of vicarious liability against the truck driving company.
Note: FMCSA has mandated that all trucks must have an electronic logging device (ELD) by December 2017.
The at-fault driver’s hours of service log is extremely important to your case but it is often difficult to obtain. Be sure to speak with a truck accident attorney at Max Meyers Law PLLC for help.
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