New Hours of Service Rules and Trucking Safety

Keeping American roads safe for the motoring public has long been an important governmental objective. Given the sheer size and weight of semi-trucks and the dangers they pose to other drivers, it follows that the trucking industry has been an important target for federal regulation for many years.

But regulation of trucking companies and their drivers is not a static endeavor. As you might expect, industry, safety groups, governmental agencies, and other interested parties are constantly monitoring technology, crash data, and other inputs in an effort to determine where changes are needed to improve processes and safety. When appropriate, the law is changed or modified. One such change is reflected in new hours of service rules, which we will examine in this article.

What Are Hours of Service?

All trucking companies engaged in interstate commerce must adhere to federal trucking regulations that are issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), initially published in the Federal Register, and compiled in the United States Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). These regulations establish rules touching on everything from truck driver training to record-keeping to truck and trailer maintenance requirements. Another area of regulation addresses “hours of service.” These particular regulations can be located at 49 CFR 395.

Hours of service regulations are a set of rules that establish the maximum amount of time (or number of hours) that truck drivers are allowed to be on duty. These rules also address the amount of time a driver may be behind the wheel and mandate numbers and lengths of rest breaks. The rules generally recognize that drivers are more likely to have accidents when they are tired and haven’t rested properly.

New Modifications to Hours of Service Rules

Several revisions were recently made to hours of service requirements which became effective September 29, 2020. It’s important for any attorney handling tractor-trailer trucking accidents to keep up with these types of changes.

  • Adverse Driving Conditions Exception - There are limitations on how many hours a trucker can drive. However, sometimes bad weather or other adverse conditions make it difficult to stop. This exception allows a driver up to 2 additional hours of driving time if the exception applies.
  • Sleeper Berth Provision - Truck drivers must log specific amounts of off-duty time. This provision attempts to add additional flexibility by permitting drivers to split their off-duty time into two periods. In taking their required 10 hours off duty, drivers can comply as long as one of the periods is 2 hours or more (this can be inside or outside the sleeper berth) and the other period includes 7 or more hours in the sleeper berth.
  • 30-Minute Break Requirement - A truck driver must now take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving, as opposed to 8 hours of on-duty time. Also, a truck driver can comply even when on duty, so long as he or she is not driving.
  • Short-Haul Exception - Some short-haul truck drivers do not have to comply with hours of service regulations. Previously, this included certain drivers driving within an air radius of 100 miles of the normal work-reporting location who were released from work within 12 hours. The radius has now been increased to 150 air miles and the release limit has been expanded to within 14 hours.

Understanding Competing Interests

Making workable hours of service rules involves the balancing of the needs of industry and profitability with safety. While many people believe that the new HOS rules are a good balance, there are many who believe safety will be compromised.

Call with Questions

Hours of Service and other trucking regulations can be complicated. However, they are necessary to protect the public. When truck drivers and trucking companies violate these rules, they can cause great harm. In those cases, society demands that they be held accountable for their actions. It is the only way to protect everyone.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a semi-truck accident, you probably have questions on how to proceed. Please give us a call and we will answer your questions. The experienced Oregon truck accident attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield understand these laws and can help you evaluate your case with a free consultation.


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