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Truck Accidents, Drowsy Driving, and Hours of Service Violations

| Category: Truck Accidents | August 31, 2022

Truck drivers spend long hours behind the wheel, which means that they are more likely than most to drive while fatigued. Given the size and weight of the average tractor-trailer, this presents a serious hazard to other drivers on the road – truck drivers need to be in full possession of their faculties in order to drive safely. Unfortunately, many truck accidents are caused by drowsy driving, which can be very difficult to prove. However, an experienced truck accident lawyer will be able to determine whether drowsy driving played a role in your accident and know how to prove it.

Drowsy Driving is Dangerous

Studies suggest that drivers who are fatigued suffer a comparable level of impairment as those who are driving under the influence of alcohol. Driving while fatigued can result in the following: 

  • Slowed reflexes and delayed reaction times – drivers will be unable to stop in time or otherwise avoid accidents.
  • Impaired judgment – blurred vision, difficulty identifying and assessing potential hazards, or simply making poor decisions can quickly lead to an accident.
  • Falling asleep at the wheel – an obvious hazard that can lead to lane drifting, head-on collisions, and rear-end accidents. 

If you suspect that your accident was caused by drowsy driving, the best thing to do is contact a truck accident lawyer to discuss your case as soon as possible. 

Federal Regulations Aimed at Reducing Drowsy Driving

Unrealistic delivery schedules and trucking companies who put profits ahead of safety can force drivers to stay behind the wheel for far longer than they should. To address this problem, the federal government has imposed regulations on the trucking industry that limits the number of hours that drivers can be on duty. 

Hours of Service Limitations

The most relevant regulations aimed at curbing driving while fatigued are the limitations on the number of hours drivers can spend on duty and driving. 

  • 14-hour window. Drivers are limited to no more than 11 hours of driving during any period of 14 consecutive hours. The 14-hour period starts as soon as they begin working, not when they begin driving
  • 30-minute breaks. Drivers are entitled to at least one 30-minute break every 8 hours during the 14-hour window. 
  • 10-hour breaks. Drivers must have been off duty for at least 10 consecutive hours before beginning the 14-hour period. They are entitled to another 10-hour break at the conclusion of the 14-hour period. 
  • Weekly limitations. Drivers cannot be on duty for more than 60 hours in the past 7 days or 70 hours in the past 8 days. The 7 or 8-day period resets when the driver spends 34 or more consecutive hours off duty. 

While these regulations do not eliminate drowsy driving, they do reduce the potential risks. That said, note that drivers can be on the road for up to 11 hours per day, with only a 30-minute break. Truck drivers spend far longer behind the wheel than almost any other driver, which is why they are so much more likely to drive while fatigued. 

Logbooks and Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) 

You might wonder how these regulations are enforced. Under the law, drivers are required to maintain detailed logbooks that record their hours of service, the time they spent on breaks, and how much time they spent sleeping. Failure to keep a logbook or intentionally falsifying logbook entries are violations of federal law. First-time violators can be charged with a misdemeanor offense, but violators with two prior convictions for logbook violations will be charged with a felony. 

Effective in 2017, federal law now requires that almost all drivers use an electronic logging device or ELD. ELDs can include a stand-alone device or an app, each of which is intended to replace the paper logbook. There are exceptions to these requirements, however.

Why Logbooks/ELDs Are Important 

The Logbook or ELD contains a record of the driver’s activities for the days and hours leading up to your accident. Failure to keep records or keeping inaccurate records can be powerful evidence of the driver’s negligence. 

Unfortunately, obtaining a copy of the logbook or the ELD records is very difficult following an accident. You need to act quickly, and it will most likely require the assistance of an experienced truck accident attorney.   

Talk to Truck Accident Lawyer Thomas E. Pyles Today

If you have been injured in a truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation. For a free consultation and case evaluation, contact us at 301-705-5006 to learn more about how we can help.