Truck driver fatigue is a problem. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) causation study, fatigue is a factor in nearly 18,000 truck accidents each year. In other words, about 13% of all heavy truck crashes involve a fatigued truck driver.

The FMCSA knows the pressure truck drivers face to make their delivery dates. Instead of allowing truckers or trucking companies to decide shift length, the agency has rules governing the hours of service for truck drivers. These rules are extremely complicated, but the government requires trucks to have electronic logs that automatically check compliance.

Hours of Service Rules

Before answering the question, you must first understand the source of the limits on truck driver shifts. The federal hours of service rules cover all trucks involved in interstate commerce. The FMCSA uses an expansive definition of interstate commerce to include all of the following trucks:

  • Trucks that start a trip in one state and end in another state
  • Trucks that start and end in the same state but pass through another state in between
  • Trucks carrying goods that have traveled across a state or international border

As a practical matter, most trucks fall within this definition and, as a result, must comply with federal trucking regulations. Thus, the time limits for a truck driver in Texas are the same as those imposed on truck drivers in every other U.S. state.

The amount of time a driver can drive depends on several factors, including how much time the driver had off before starting the shift and how long the driver spent working in the preceding week. The rules also provide a short-haul exception that allows longer workdays for drivers who stay within a 150-mile radius.

Summary of the Rules

The hours of service rules cover three measures of how long a driver has worked:

  • Total hours “on duty”
  • Hours spent driving
  • Time off to reset the numbers

The total on-duty hours tell you how long the driver has been working. This time includes breaks and time spent loading or unloading the truck. Truckers can have 14 hours on duty.

The hours driving include the hours spent behind the wheel of a truck. This time does not include breaks, but it does include time spent sitting in traffic. Truckers can drive for 11 hours.

To reset the on-duty and driving times, the driver must be off-duty for at least 10 consecutive hours. Off-duty time can be spent at home, in a hotel, or in the truck’s sleeper berth. If the truck has a sleeper berth, the driver can break the 10 hours into two breaks instead of a single block. The trucker must not be available for work and must not operate a truck during the off-duty time.

Combining these rules, over 24 hours in a day, the driver can be on-duty for up to 14 hours and off-duty for at least 10 hours. Of the 14 hours on duty, the driver can drive for up to 11 hours.

Complicating these rules slightly, drivers must take breaks. Drivers must take at least 1 30-minute break for every 8 hours of driving. This break can be on-duty or off-duty. But if the break is off-duty, it does not count toward the off-duty time unless it lasts at least 10 hours for non-sleeper berth trucks or at least two hours for sleeper berth trucks.

Hours of Service Rules Protect Everyone on the Road

Drivers have limits on the length of their shifts and the minimum time they must spend off duty. However, these rules have not eliminated crashes by tired drivers. If your truck accident may have involved a fatigued driver, you should speak to a lawyer for a free consultation.

Contact Our Truck Accident Law Firm in Fort Worth, TX

If you’ve been injured in an accident in Fort Worth and need legal help, contact our Fort Worth truck accident lawyers at Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents to schedule a free consultation.

Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents
1300 S University Dr # 300
Fort Worth, TX 76107
(817) 420-7000

Stephens Law Personal Injury | Wrongful Death | Truck Accidents
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Weatherford, TX 76086
(817) 409-7000