Fatigued driving is dangerous when you’re driving a car, but in a commercial semi-truck that’s hauling tens of thousands of pounds, it becomes a deadly risk to everyone on the road. And while there are many state and federal regulations designed to prevent truck drivers from overexerting themselves to the point of danger, there are some exemptions to these rules that may be doing more harm than good. It’s important to know about these rules and exemptions, including how they can put other drivers at risk for a dangerous accident and how to get legal help if you’ve been hurt in a crash.
How Truck Driver Hourly Restrictions Work
Interstate truck drivers are typically required to follow rules dictated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA rules dictate how long drivers can operate vehicles in a day or week, when breaks must be taken, and how long those breaks must be.
These rules often change as regulations are updated, but generally, truck drivers have a maximum 14-hour workday. This is referred to as the “14-hour rule” and includes all work-related activities such as driving, breaks, lunch, and maintenance. Within those 14 hours, a maximum of 11 hours can be devoted to driving; the rest must be non-driving or off-duty time.
Once the maximum daily hour limit has been reached, the driver is typically required to have a minimum 10-hour break. Truckers are also allowed to drive 60 hours per 7-day week, or 70 hours per 8-day work week. After this weekly cap has been reached, the driver must have 34 hours of rest time before driving again.
One notable exception to the 14-hour rule for drivers is called the “16-hour short-haul exception.” This rule allows short-distance drivers to extend their normal workday by 2 hours, up to 16 hours, if certain conditions are met. These conditions include:
- The driver has returned to his work reporting location for the past five days
- The driver returns to his work reporting location the day of the exception
- The driver hasn’t used the exception rule in the past six days without a 34-hour break
The 16-hour exception doesn’t extend the amount of driving time beyond 11 hours, but it does mean that the driver’s workday can be 2 hours longer.
Truck Driver Fatigue
Two extra hours at work may not sound like a lot of time, but consider that a regular office job tends to be nine hours long, including breaks and lunch—and an office job doesn’t usually involve pulling a 53-foot-long trailer in a vehicle that weighs up to 80,000 pounds through traffic. And while long-haul drivers may have the relative comfort of long stretches of highway, short-haul drivers have no such luxury, especially when faced with challenges like traffic lights, stop signs, heavy urban traffic, navigating many turns, and docking and loading/unloading cargo at the destination.
The risk of driver fatigue seems unavoidable under conditions like these—and data from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) seems to agree that fatigue and short-haul exemptions are real factors in causing accidents. In a 2016 report, the IIHS found that driving under the short-haul exemption increased the risk of an accident by as much as five times, and the NTSB has found that 30 to 40 percent of truck accidents involve fatigued drivers, as well.
Legal Help for Truck Accident Victims
When a passenger vehicle is involved in a preventable accident with a fatigued truck driver, it can be devastating to the lives of the victims. The sheer force and trauma involved in these accidents often lead to severe injuries, extremely high medical costs, and years of recovery, so seeking fair compensation from the responsible party is critical.
If you’ve been hurt in an accident caused by a semi-truck, Wayne Wright LLP is here to help you. We have decades of experience with personal injury law and the complex rules and regulations of the commercial trucking industry, and we are here to help injured people like you get the justice you deserve in a court of law.
To arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced legal professionals, call us, use our contact form to send us an email, or click the live chat box on this page.