All it takes is a split second for any one of us to divert our attention from the road and cause an accident. Unfortunately, when this happens to commercial truck drivers due to driver fatigue it can have catastrophic results. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has promulgated regulations for tractor-trailer divers to help curb accidents due to overworked and tired drivers. The FMCSA regulations mandate that a driver of a commercial motor vehicle, such as a semi-truck, tractor-trailer, or 14-wheeler must comply with certain rules and regulations to operate their vehicle legally to minimize truck accidents.
A commercial motor vehicle would be one that is “used as part of a business and is involved in interstate commerce” and fits any of the descriptions mentioned below:
- Weighs 10,001 pounds or more.
- Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more.
- Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation.
- Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation.
- Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards.
What most people do not know is that this definition also includes private business owners where vehicles are used to tow backhoes, bull dozers, skid-steer loaders and other heavy equipment when their work requires them to travel across state lines. This would also implicate small car haulers, dump trucks and other businesses that operate between two states and the weight of the vehicles exceeds 10,000 lbs, which is not a very high threshold.
One of the rules commercial truck drivers must comply with are the hours of service regulations. Hours of service regulations stipulate the maximum number of hours these types of drivers can be behind the wheel to ensure they aren’t driving for too long and become a risk to themselves and others on the roadway. As we have all seen from news reports and other sources, these heavy vehicles have the potential to cause massive property damage and loss of life, so the FMCSA has promulgated these rules to ensure that the public is kept safe. A trucker that is responsible for transporting property is subjected to the following hours of service rules:
- Truck drivers are limited to driving a total of 11 hours after spending 10 consecutive hours off duty.
- Truck drivers may work a total of 14 hours, however, of those 14 hours, 11 can be spent driving and mentioned above.
- A truck driver may only drive if eight hours or less have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper birth period that lasted at least 30 minutes.
- A truck operator may not drive after having been on duty for 60 hours in seven consecutive days. A truck driver who works eight consecutive days may not go over the 70-hour mark.