What hours of service rules mean for truckers and other drivers

It's highly unlikely that anyone driving down a highway or interstate won't come across a large commercial truck in their commute. In fact, these tractor-trailers make up 4 percent of all vehicles that are legally registered on America's highways. Some unlucky New Jersey drivers may learn the hard way, though, that these trucks actually cause 8 percent of all fatal highway accidents. Hours of service rules are meant to minimize the potentiality for such accidents.

Hours of service rules are meant to prevent truck driver fatigue which sometimes leads to serious accidents. They do this by restricting the number of hours that a driver can work and drive during any given day. These rules became effective February 2012, and they apply to drivers of a large variety of vehicles that participate in interstate commerce. Further rules went into effect on July 2013.

Federal rules state that a commercial vehicle driver can only work for 14 hours a day, and only 11 of those hours may constitute driving time. In effect, these rules lowered the maximum number of hours a driver could be on the highway from 82 to 70 hours. Rules also require these drivers to stop for a 30-minute break at some point during their shift within the first eight hours of starting. By enforcing these rules, the government hopes to keep fatigued drivers off the road and prevent potentially fatal large truck accidents from occurring.

Large truck accidents lead to a disproportionate number of injuries and deaths each year, and in some instances, it's due to negligent actions, such as driving tired or drunk, on the part of the trucker. When these accidents do occur, it's usually the individual in the passenger vehicle who ends up worse for wear. With legal assistance, though, these victims may be able to secure financial compensation for their pain and medical bills.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "2012 LARGE TRUCKS Traffic Safety Fact Sheet," May 2014

Source: FMCSA, "Hours of Service", November 11, 2014

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