Drowsy driving is a serious issue among commercial truck drivers. Driving while fatigued impairs response time and judgment, similar to the effects of driving while inebriated. To prevent serious problems from the occurring, truck drivers are obligated to follow hours of service regulations. These regulations provide detailed standards for how many hours a trucker can work, as well as when mandatory breaks must be taken. It’s imperative that both truckers and trucking companies abide by these regulations to preserve the safety of themselves and other drivers.
Before the 168-hour workweek can begin, a trucker must have spent at least 10 hours off-duty. At this point, a driver can be on-duty for up to 14 hours, but only 11 of those hours can be spent driving. Once a trucker reaches the 8th hour of driving, he or she must take a half-hour break before resuming. Additionally, drivers must not be on-duty for more than 60 hours during a consecutive seven day period.
There are some exceptions to these rules. For example, truckers who begin and end their workday at the same terminal can be on-duty for 16 hours, provided that actual drive time doesn’t exceed more than 11 hours. If weather conditions are poor and prevent the driver from reaching his or her terminal in the allotted time period, he or she may be able to drive an extra 2 hours to reach a safe location to rest.
Violations of the hours of service regulations are taken very seriously. Once the driving limit has been breached, a driver may be ordered to remain off-duty until enough time has accumulated to bring him or her back into compliance. The trucking company’s safety rating may also be decreased, which impacts their reputation. Finally, breaches of hours of service regulations may also result in fines. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration can levy fines ranging from $1,000 to $11,000 depending on how serious the violation was considered.