January 28, 2021 | Truck Accidents

Truck Driver Fatigue: FMCSA Hours of Service, Violations, and Penalties

Truck Driver Fatigue: FMCSA Hours of Service, Violations, and Penalties

Truck driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of truck accidents. Driving fatigued is dangerous for anyone but can be especially risky for semi-truck drivers who spend long hours on the road. Fatigue can lead to slower reaction times and a reduced ability to acknowledge one’s own exhaustion. 

What is FMCSA and HOS?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) places a limit on the number of hours truck drivers can stay on the road. The hours of service (HOS) refers to the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be “on duty” or spent driving. Those who must comply with the FMCSA hours of service regulations include any vehicle that is part of a business involved in interstate commerce weighing 10,001 pounds or more, transporting hazardous materials, transporting 16 or more passengers not for compensation, or 9 or more passengers for compensation.

What Are the Penalties for Violating FMCSA HOS?

Hours of service (HOS) violations are common in the trucking industry. An HOS violation occurs when a truck or commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver goes over their allotted hours for being on the road. If truck drivers are found violating their allowed hours of service, they run the risk of several different penalties.

Penalties for violating hours of service can range from small to large. If law enforcement finds a driver in violation, they have the option to immediately stop that driver from continuing their journey. The truck would then sit on the side of the interstate until that driver is permitted to re-enter their driving time. In addition to the inability to resume driving, if a truck driver is caught over their hours, they can face fines and fees ranging from $1,000 to $16,000+ depending on the severity of the violation.

 HOS Rules

As a truck or CMV driver, it is important to know the rules for hours of service and how they apply to your driving time. The following FMCSA rules apply:

14-Hour Window Rule

According to the 14-hour rule, drivers cannot be on duty for more than 14 consecutive hours. Once the 14 hours has been reached, the driver cannot resume driving until they’ve taken a consecutive 10-hour break.

11-Hour Window Rule

This states that a driver can drive a maximum of 11 hours following the mandatory 10 consecutive hours off duty within a 14-hour window. 

30-Minute Break Rule

This rule regulates that after a driver’s 10-hour off period, they cannot exceed 8 hours of driving without taking a break of at least 30 minutes.

60/70-Hour Rule

The 60/70 rule implements that drivers can only be on duty for a maximum of 60 hours in one seven-day period of time, or 70 hours in an eight-day period of time.

 Sleeper Berth Rule

This rule states that drivers must spend at least 7 hours in a sleeper berth and another 3 hours off duty either in-berth or out-of-berth. 

What Happens When a Company Forces Their Drivers Into a Violation of HOS?

Complying with HOS rules is the responsibility of the truck driver, but also of the company. Unfortunately, trucking companies sometimes force their drivers into violation of hours of service. This practice is prohibited, however,  and if caught, the companies can face serious penalties and fines. 

Risks of Drowsy Driving 

Driving drowsy or fatigued is extremely dangerous and takes many lives each year. Fatigue has several negative effects on our health and safety, both on and off the road. Falling asleep at the wheel is very scary for both the driver and others on the road, but it is also preventable. Be aware of the following symptoms of drowsy driving:

  • Drifting in and out of lanes
  • Driving too closely to other vehicles on the road
  • Missing turns
  • Consistent yawning
  • Heavy eyes

Additional factors that may lead to drowsy driving include medical conditions such as insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome. If you are experiencing warning signs of drowsy driving, it is recommended to take a break from driving and rest to avoid an accident

Tips for Driving Alert

There are several ways to avoid fatigued or distracted driving:

  • Getting enough sleep on a regular basis
  • Avoid drinking alcohol before driving
  • Don’t get too comfortable or too warm
  • Be aware of the foods you eat while on the road and their potential to make you drowsy
  • Check prescription pills for drowsiness side-effects
  • Avoid driving during the sleepiness periods (after midnight and late afternoon)
  • Take regular breaks

Who is Liable?

If a truck driver causes an accident due to fatigue or drowsiness and this is proven by the other party, the truck driver and/or trucking company is liable for the accident. Ways of proving fault include receipts of tolls, gas receipts, hotel receipts, and surveillance cameras.

Contact a Truck Accident Attorney Today 

The attorneys at Wilson Kehoe Winingham have extensive experience in auto and truck accidents. We serve clients throughout Indianapolis who have experienced crashes involving trucks as a result of truck driver fatigue. If you or a loved one have been the victim of a truck accident, contact WKW today. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

Contact Us

Let WKW put our experience to work for you. Contact us for your free case evaluation.

Or, call us today at (317) 920-6400

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