Truck accidents are among the deadliest and most devastating on our roads. You might imagine that professional truck drivers are less likely to engage in risky behavior, but truck drivers often experience extremely tight schedules that directly affect their livelihoods. This can push some truckers to drive outside the parameters set by laws that restrict hours of service. These truckers are dangerous truckers. But the complicated laws that govern hours of service, and the careful investigations needed to prove violations, call for experienced legal counsel. If a fatigued—and thus negligent—trucker injured you in the Philadelphia area, contact The Levin Firm today.
Hours of Service
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets strict hours of service (HOS) regulations for truckers. These HOS regulations incorporate hefty fines and penalties for truckers who fail to abide by them.
If you or someone you love was injured—or if someone you love died—in a truck accident, you know exactly how harrowing that feels, and you need experienced legal counsel to help you work through it. The dedicated legal team at The Levin Firm in Philadelphia will aggressively advocate for your rights and for your rightful compensation.
The FMCSA’s hours of service regulations limit truckers’ driving to 14 hours within any period of duty. Truckers may only engage in 11 hours of uninterrupted driving—which must incorporate a 30-minute break for every eight hours of driving time. This 14-hour maximum must include the time expended on all driving breaks and gas stops. (Drivers cannot subtract the time spent on these driving breaks from the total allotment of 14 hours of driving time.)
Additional regulations relate to a driver’s weekly HOS:
- A trucker many not drive more than 60 hours in any one week, and the trucker can restart the allowed 60 hours only after spending at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.
- A trucker may not drive more that 70 hours in eight days, and the trucker can restart the allowed 70 hours only after spending 34 consecutive hours off duty.
- Truckers who use the sleeper berth in their trucks must spend at least eight consecutive hours in the sleeper birth and another two consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth or off duty (or any combination of these two).
- All truckers must track their driving and resting hours in a daily log book (or in an Electronic On-Board Recorder—EOBR). This log must include the dates, times, and locations of driving—along with all status-of-duty changes and total miles driven on each driving leg.
When drivers deviate from these important HOS restrictions, they can face harsh penalties and fines. This also applies to the trucking companies themselves. In fact, truckers or trucking companies that knowingly and willfully commit violations may face federal criminal penalties.
Rules and Their Exceptions
Exceptions to the HOS rules may alter a trucker’s legal driving hours:
- In inclement weather (which naturally slows a trucker down), the trucker may exceed the 11-hour driving limit by a maximum of two hours.
- Truckers who only drive within a 100-mile radius of the location where they report for duty aren’t required to keep driving logs.
- Truckers for retail stores who drive less than a radius of 100 air miles can surpass their daily driving-hour restrictions between the dates of December 10 and December 25—to help keep up with the increased retail demands of the holiday season. (Note that truck accidents increase around the holidays.)
Fatigued Truckers Are Dangerous Truckers
Truckers face strict HOS regulations for good reason: Fatigued truck drivers are dangerous truck drivers. Due to their massive size, big rigs are the most dangerous vehicles on our roadways. The rigors of the trucking industry, however, can push some truck drivers to make the incredibly unsafe decision to drive with too little rest. Tired truckers face the following functional impairments:
- Increased reaction time
- Decreased attention span
- Decreased alertness
- Lapses in safe decision making
When drowsy truckers get behind the wheel, they are far more likely to cause serious accidents and they endanger everyone with whom they share the road.
Truck Accidents: The Sobering Statistics
More semis travel our roads because we need ever-more semis to fulfill our growing consumer demands. As the trucking industry rushes to keep pace, trucking companies sometimes bypass the regulations to which they’re supposed to abide. These lapses can cause and exacerbate trucking accidents. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shares some sobering statistics related to these accidents:
- In 2015, almost 4,000 people died in truck accidents in the United States
- In 2015, the drivers and passengers in the vehicles that weren’t in the commercial trucks accounted for 97 percent of truck-accident fatalities
- In the seven years between 2009 and 2015, truck accident fatalities increased by 22 percent
- Of all the traffic fatalities in 2015, 11 percent involved semi-trucks
These statistics represent an important reminder that we share the road with massive, dangerous commercial trucks and that, as such, we should always proceed with caution.
Your Truck Accident Claim
Truck accidents are extremely dangerous, and the federal government, therefore, holds truckers to strict hour-of-service rules and regulations. If a driver injures you in an accident, however, you may find proof of fatigue hard to uncover. Some truckers, for example, aren’t above falsifying their duty logs. Furthermore, trucking companies and their insurance carriers are in the business of turning a profit, which includes fighting not to pay out on accident claims. If you were injured in a truck accident, you need an experienced truck accident attorney to help overcome these obstacles.
If You Are Injured in a Truck Accident, Consult a Skilled Philadelphia Truck Accident Attorney
Truck accidents are always harrowing. If a fatigued trucker injured you or your loved one, consult an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as you can. The dedicated legal team at The Levin Firm in Philadelphia is committed to fighting for your just compensation, and we have the experience and compassion to help you. Please contact or call us at (215) 825-5183 today.