How Long Can Truckers Legally Drive?
Exhausted truck drivers cause thousands of truck accidents each year. To try to reduce the chances of a crash caused by a tired trucker, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created hours-of-service regulations that limit how long a truck driver can spend on the road in a single shift and week.
Current FMCSA hours-of-service regulations impose the following limits:
- 11 hours of driving in a day as long as another 3 hours in the shift do not include driving time.
- 70 hours of work in a given week, which is not necessarily Sunday to Saturday.
- Once the 70-hour workweek limit is reached, the trucker must take 34 hours off before working again.
Additionally, truck drivers must take a 30-minute break before hitting the 8-hour mark of a shift. The FMCSA attests that the regulations were created with scientific backing to allow drivers the longest shifts before fatigue sets in. However, the efficacy of the regulations is questionable since truck accidents caused by an exhausted trucker are so common.
What Truckers Must Follow FMCSA Regulations?
Another issue with the FMCSA hours-of-service regulations is that it does not apply to all truck drivers.
Compliance is required only of truckers who are driving a vehicle that:
- Weighs more than 10,000 pounds.
- Contains materials that must be transported with descriptive placards.
- Crosses or will cross state borders.
Not all truck drivers fit this fairly narrow description. Many trucks weigh less than 10,000 pounds, drive only within their states of origin, or do not transport any dangerous materials or substances. Truck drivers in this category can technically spend as much time as they or their employers want, which is clearly dangerous and encourages exhausted driving.
Additional Exceptions to Hours-of-Service Rules
Hours-of-service regulations can be modified under certain conditions, including:
- Short-haul trips: Truckers who do not drive further than 150 air-miles from their point-of-origin in a shift might be allowed to drive longer than 14 hours in a shift.
- Adverse driving conditions: When weather or road conditions are dangerous or otherwise require a trucker to drive under the usual speed limit, the driving-time allowance increases from 11 hours in a shift to 13.
- Working breaks: Truck drivers are allowed to keep working during their 30-minute break periods as long as they are not driving.
- Sleeper berths: In between 14-hour shifts, truckers should normally get at least 10 hours of rest, called a sleeper berth. The 10-hour sleeper berth can be split into two periods totaling 10 hours as long as one of those periods is 7 hours and both periods follow and are followed by 2 hours of rest.
There are many ways truck drivers and trucking companies can work around the standard FMCSA hours-of-service regulations, which might explain why exhausted truck driving accidents hurt thousands of motorists a year. If you’re ever hit by a trucker who seemed half-asleep at the time, then ‘Maggio | Thompson, LLP in Jackson, Mississippi wants to hear from you. During a free consultation , we can help determine how you should pursue legal action against the truck driver and their employer, so call (601) 265-6869 right away.