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Trucking New Rules Allow Truck Drivers to Split ‘Hours of Service’

A change in the trucking industry’s “Hours of Service” rule, which dictates how long commercial truck drivers can spend behind the wheel without a break, will allow truckers to split mandatory time off without affecting driving time. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates the trucking industry, says in a news release that the rule change will “improve safety on America’s roadways and strengthen the nation’s motor carrier industry.”

Hours of Service (HOS) regulations govern how long commercial drivers can operate a semitruck without resting. The new guidelines are designed to provide increased flexibility for truck drivers “without adversely affecting safety,” the FMCSA says. Officials said they crafted the rules based on input from the industry.

The rule changes do not increase driving time and will continue to prevent commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators from driving for more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute break, the FMCSA says.

The four key revisions to the existing rules are:

  • Modifying the sleeper-berth exception to allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off duty into two periods: an 8/2 split, or a 7/3 split — with neither period counting against the driver’s allowed 14 hours of driving per shift.
  • Changing the 30-minute break rule by requiring a break after 8 hours of consecutive driving and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using “on-duty, not driving” status, rather than off-duty status.
  • Modifying the adverse driving conditions exception by extending by two hours the maximum window during which driving is permitted.
  • Changing the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by lengthening the drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and extending the distance limit within which the driver may operate from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

The new Hours of Service rule will go into effect on September 29, 120 days after publication in the Federal Register.

The FMCSA has also extended its exemption of motor carriers and drivers that are involved in supporting relief efforts related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. These drivers are exempt from many HOS regulations through August 14. We previously discussed the original emergency order suspending truck driver safety rules in April.

“The new (HOS) rule is a major step forward because it will allow professional drivers to better manage fatigue,” Brian Fielkow, president of the trucking and logistics company Jetco Delivery, told FOX Business. “Under the current rule, if a driver is tired, there is a tremendous disincentive to pull over and get some rest. Once the clock has started, the driver cannot stop it. So, he or she is confronted with a choice – keep running or get rest.”

Fatigue and Rest are Major Issues in Truck Driving Industry

Because driving a tractor-trailer requires drivers to remain alert for unpredictable highway conditions, the long hours that long-haul truckers spend behind the wheel are a constant concern. Truckers’ long work hours cause sleep deprivation, disruption of normal sleep/rest cycles and fatigue, research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says.

The IIHS says that truck drivers behind the wheel for more than eight hours are twice as likely to crash and that truck drivers who have reported HOS violations were more likely to report having fallen asleep behind the wheel during the prior month.

A semitruck loaded with cargo can weigh up to 80,000 pounds legally in Indiana (more with proper permits), 20 times the average passenger vehicle’s weight. If the truck driver steering an 18-wheeler at 70 mph along Interstate 65 in Indianapolis nods off behind the wheel, he or she can cause a catastrophic accident, endangering the lives of others sharing the road.

Even awake, a fatigued truck driver is less likely to react quickly enough to slow their truck if something unexpected happens, such as traffic suddenly coming to a stop.

The FMCSA says 13 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers involved in truck accidents were considered to have been fatigued at the time of their crash. Driver drowsiness may be due to a lack of adequate sleep, extended work hours, strenuous work, medications that cause drowsiness, or a combination of other factors.

What our experienced truck accident attorneys at Craig Kelley & Faultless have found is that truck drivers sometimes exceed the amount of time they can drive without resting because of pressure to meet delivery deadlines, or simply to get home more quickly. This pressure may be self-imposed or applied by employers. If it leads to a fatigued truck driving accident, it may mean that the accident victims can hold the truck driver and trucking company legally responsible for the harm caused in the accident. People hurt in such accidents have a right to seek compensation for their injuries and other associated losses.

Talk to an Indianapolis Truck Accident Attorney

Driver fatigue may be one of multiple factors that contribute to a commercial truck accident. An IIHS study found the combination of tired truckers and unsafe trucks to be a persistent problem in crashes among large trucks operated by interstate carriers.

Identifying precisely what caused the truck accident that injured you or your loved one will likely require an independent investigation led by a knowledgeable truck accident attorney. At Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC, our team includes two attorneys who are board certified in truck accident law, indicating their specialized knowledge of this complex area of law. Our attorneys work with recognized accident reconstruction specialists to understand how a tractor trailer accident occurred. That detailed investigation allows our attorneys to build a convincing case for full compensation to our clients.

If you have been hurt in an accident in Indiana involving a large commercial truck, contact an experienced truck accident attorney at Craig, Kelley & Faultless for a free review of your case. The longer you wait to see an attorney, the more difficult it becomes to find and preserve evidence, and the greater the risk of jeopardizing your claim for compensation you deserve.

Call us today at (800) 746-0226. We handle truck accident cases on a contingency basis. All work we do for you is free unless and until we recover a settlement or jury award for you.