Just about everyone in Florida has had the experience of driving beside or immediately behind a tractor-trailer and knows how intimidating — at times frightening — sharing the road with these imposing vehicles can be. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has put forth regulations and guidelines to ensure that semi drivers are operating in full awareness of traffic and road conditions even while driving on long hauls. Truck accidents caused by overtired drivers can be devastating, and two of the guidelines set forth in the Interstate Truck Driver’s Guide to Hours of Service are aimed at reducing the number of those types of accidents.
While there are some exceptions, truck drivers are generally limited to a 14-hour driving window. During a time span of 14 consecutive hours, truck drivers can drive up to 11 hours, provided they have been off duty for at least 10 hours prior to the 14-hour period. The 14-hour period starts as soon as the driver begins any kind of work, even if that work is not the actual driving of the tractor-trailer.
Any breaks, such as for a nap or to eat, taken during that 14 hours still counts as time spent in the 14-hour period. The driver is permitted to do other non-driving work after the 14-hour period. Once the driver has passed the 11-hour driving limit, however, the driver must be completely off duty for 10 hours or more before the next 14-hour time period can begin.
One important update to this rule that went into effect in 2013 is that drivers cannot drive for more than eight hours before they must take a 30-minute break. After the break — which can be spent eating, napping or any engaging in any other off-duty activity — the driver can resume driving for the remaining three hours left in the 11-hour driving period. The 30-minute break must be included in the 14-hour work window, however, to ensure that drivers are not extending their shifts past the point of fatigue.
While these regulations are definitely a step in the right direction, enforcing them can prove problematic, and some drivers may still operate the trucks when they are overtired. A truck driver who causes an accident and is found to be in violation of these regulations may be able to be held liable by the courts in any civil cases brought forward by any injured parties.
Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “Interstate Truck Driver’s Guide to Hours of Service” Jul. 13, 2014