Semi-trucks are a familiar sight all hours of the day on Montana roadways. Given their need to stay on schedule, truck drivers and truck companies generally want their big rigs to stay in motion whenever possible. But due to legal and practical requirements, drivers at some point must pull over and take a break.
In an effort to reduce the frequency of truck accidents, strict regulations are in place limiting the number of hours a truck driver can stay on the road before stopping for rest.
A year ago, the federal laws regarding commercial truckers’ hours-of-service were altered. One change was a cutback in total hours per week a commercial truck driver can spend behind the wheel. The limit, which had been at 82 hours a week, was scaled back to 70 hours a week. Carriers and shippers have contended these new rules negatively impact supply chain schedules.
The 70-hour rule is not the most frequently violated of the new hours-of-service regulations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that, in the year subsequent to the new rules going into effect, the new rule that commercial truck drivers have most often broken is the so-called “30-minute rule,” which states a trucker can drive no more than eight hours before stopping, going off-duty and taking a 30-minute break.
Violations of hours-of-service rules are not only significant to truck drivers, but rather can be meaningful to anyone involved in an accident with a commercial semi-truck. First, the regulations were put in place to help prevent truck driver fatigue, a potential cause of truck accidents. Second, should the truck driver get into an accident, any breach of these rules may affect the liability of the truck driver and the company for which the driver works.
When a truck collides with a smaller passenger vehicle, the smaller vehicle is likely to incur severe damages and the occupants can be the victims of serious or fatal injuries. When such an event occurs, a thorough investigation is often necessary to determine if the truck driver was fatigued or otherwise impaired.
If, while driving the roads of Montana, you become involved in a collision caused by a fatigued truck driver, an attorney familiar with the accident investigation process may be able to help in gathering all the facts that are pertinent to the issues of liability and compensation.
Source: DC Velocity, “Violations of "30-minute rule" most prevalent in first year of HOS regime,” Mark B. Solomon, July 1, 2014