It is well known that driver fatigue causes slower response times, attention failure and poor decision making. When the fatigue happens to the driver of a semi-truck or passenger bus, the results can be fatal to them and others. In 2019, there were 5,237 large truck and bus collisions involving fatalities. And Texas leads the country in those fatalities. It is estimated between 10-20 percent of those crashes involved driver fatigue.
Hours of service laws for trucking
In an effort to combat driver fatigue among commercial truck drivers, the federal government, Texas and other states have enacted hours of service laws which truckers must comply with depending on what they are hauling and where they are driving.
Hours of service laws for interstate trucking
Long-haul tractor-trailer drivers traveling in interstate commerce (crossing state lines) are governed by the Federal rules. The Federal hours of service laws for commercial drivers hauling property (as opposed to passengers) are:
- After 10 hours off duty, a truck driver may only be on duty for 14 consecutive hours.
- Drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Drivers must take a 30-minute break when they have driven for a period of 8 cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute break.
- No driver may be on duty for more than 60 cumulative hours in a 7-day period or 70 cumulative hours in 8 consecutive days. The 7- or 8-day period is restarted after 34 or more continuous off-duty hours.
Some exceptions to these rules are:
- Drivers are allowed to extend the 11-hour maximum driving limit and 14-hour on duty window by up to 2 hours when adverse driving conditions are encountered.
- A driver is exempt from these hours of service if they operate within a 150 air-mile radius of their normal work location and the driver does not exceed a maximum duty period of 14 hours. They must report and return to the same work location each day.
Hours of service rules for trucks operating just within Texas
For commercial truck drivers carrying property (as opposed to passengers) who remain within Texas state lines, the rules are more relaxed.
- Drivers are allowed to drive for 12 hours following 8 consecutive hours off duty.
- Drivers cannot drive after 15 hours spend on duty following 8 consecutive hours off-duty.
- Driver cannot drive after being on duty 70 total hours in 7 days until they restart after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off-duty.
The Texas rules for drivers of commercial motor vehicles with passengers (buses) operating solely within Texas limit driving to no more than 10 hours following 8 consecutive hours off-duty.
A problem that arises for long-haul truckers is the 10-hour off-duty time while on the road. Given they are away from home, what are they doing during the off-duty time. Eating? Showering? Hanging out? Sleeping? Or are they spending the off-duty time in the sleeper berth watching movies, being on their cellphones or other activities other than sleeping. If this becomes a normal habit for the driver, they are probably not getting enough sleep and that is when problems can arise.
More trucking companies are equipping the tractor-trailers with cameras which not only video what is happening in front of the semi-truck, but also have a camera focused on the truck driver to ensure they are not nodding off at the wheel. The hope is that the company is monitoring those cameras to make sure their drivers are not driving fatigued.
If you are involved in a collision with a semi-truck, you will want to obtain any videos from the semi-truck. Additionally, you will want to obtain not only the driver’s logbooks showing the on-duty and off-duty hours of the driver, but you will also want the driver’s cell phone records to show their activity online during their off-hours. This will help to determine whether driver fatigue was a cause of the collision.
If you, a family member, or friend has been injured in a collision with a semi-truck, call us to discuss the case.