Truck Driver Hours of Service Rules 101

In an effort to keep the road safe for truck drivers and passenger vehicles alike, the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration passed the “Hours-of-Service Safety Regulations” for truck drivers. The regulations were introduced with the intention of reducing truck driver fatigue by addressing issues that often cause drivers to be overly tired behind the wheel.

What are the Rules?

Workers are required, by law, to record their hours accurately in a log book. In the event of an accident, these logs are recovered to determine whether fatigue may have played a role in causing the accident. The new hours-of-service law changes the following for truckers according to the Department of Transportation website on the regulations.

  • Truck drivers are now limited to a maximum workweek of 70 hours. Before the new regulations, the limit was 82 hours.
  • Drivers may resume driving after driving 70 hours within one workweek as long as they rest for 34 uninterrupted hours. These hours must include two nights, particularly between the hours of 1:00 and 5:00 AM, when the body clock needs sleep most.
  • Drivers must take a 30-minute break within the first eight hours of their shifts.
  • Additionally, drivers cannot drive for more than 14 consecutive hours following 10 consecutive off-duty hours.

When Did the Law Go into Effect?

The law went into effect July 1, 2013. Companies were afforded plenty of time, however, to prepare for this law to take effect as they were notified in December of 2011 that it was coming. They were also made aware of what the law would require of drivers and the businesses that employ them.

How Do New Regulations Keep Truck Drivers and Passenger Vehicles Safe?

The purpose of the Hours-of-Service law is to reduce truck driver fatigue in order to create safer roads. The Department of Transportation believes that by reducing fatigue they can also eliminate 1,400 crashes, 560 injuries, and save 19 lives yearly.

According to the legal website, driver fatigue is a factor in roughly 18 percent of all truck driver crashes. While drivers are required, by law, to keep accurate logs of their driving hours, not all of them do. With that in mind, it’s possible to verify or reconstruct hours by reviewing trip tickets or bills of lading.

The key for small businesses that employ drivers is to create policies that brook no argument or exceptions regarding truck driving hours. The penalties for failure to comply are quite steep ($11,000 per offense for the company and $2,750 for the driver).

Don’t forget to invest in commercial auto insurance to help protect your business in the event that an accident is found to be the result of driver fatigue. The more vehicles your business has on the road, the greater the risks of fatigue related accidents that place your business at an increased risk for lawsuits and damages (in addition to lost equipment and merchandise). The right business auto insurance policy will help you get your business back on its feet faster in the aftermath of an accident.