How Long Can a Trucker Drive without Taking a Break?

About four fifths of the revenue generated by the U.S. transportation industry comes from commercial trucking, with only a tiny sliver coming from rail, sea, and air travel.  Because trucking is such a competitive industry, drivers are pressured to finish their trips as quickly as possible.  This leads many truckers to intentionally violate safety regulations that are there to cut down on the risk of accidents.  One of the most common violations, as our Salt Lake County truck injury attorneys explain here, is to drive longer shifts than are permitted under federal safety standards, which increases the risk of a crash or collision caused by driver fatigue.  However, reckless and negligent truckers can be held responsible for compensating the victims of crash injuries.

Hours of Service (HOS) Regulate Driving Hours for Truckers

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Like other industries, the trucking industry is subject to strict regulations.  These regulations, which were developed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), govern when, where, and how commercial drivers are allowed to operate.  Some of the most important regulations that truck accident victims should know about are the Hours of Service, commonly abbreviated to HOS.

Put simply, the HOS set limits on how long truckers are allowed to drive.  There are a few different limits that apply in different situations, depending on factors like:

  • The weight of the truck.
  • Whether the truck is carrying people or objects.
  • The nature of the cargo being hauled.
  • The number of people onboard the vehicle.
  • Whether the driver is using a sleeper berth.

That being said, most of the trucks you see on Utah’s highways are subject to the HOS, which apply to all commercial vehicles:

  • Weighing more than 10,000 pounds.  (For reference, a 2017 Toyota Camry weighs around 3,360 pounds.  Even a large SUV, like a Jeep Grand Cherokee, only weighs around 4,700 pounds.)
  • Displaying warning placards for hazardous materials.
  • Used or intended for transporting:
  • 9 or more passengers (for compensation).
  • 16 or more passengers (not for compensation).

What Are the Shift Limits for Truck Drivers in Utah? 

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Slightly different HOS rules apply depending on whether the driver is transporting people or property.  Since truck accidents involve cargo-hauling vehicles, like semi-trailer trucks that are transporting food, building materials, or hazardous waste, we’ll focus here on the HOS regulations for truckers carrying property.  These regulations impose the following requirements on commercial drivers:

  • 11-Hour Driving Limit — Truckers can drive for up to 11 hours after being off-duty for at least 10 consecutive hours.
  • 14-Hour Limit — Once a trucker has come back on-duty after being off-duty for at least 10 hours in a row, he or she cannot drive for more than 14 consecutive hours.  Spending extra time off-duty does not increase or extend the 14-hour limit.
  • Rest Breaks — Truckers are allowed to drive only when “eight hours or less” [sic] have elapsed since the trucker’s last sleeper berth period, or off-duty period, lasting at least half an hour.  However, there are some exceptions to this rule for short-haul truckers.
  • Sleeper Berth — If a trucker is going to use the sleeper berth provision, he or she is required to spend at least eight straight hours in the sleeper berth, in addition to two consecutive hours:
    • In the sleeper berth.
    • Off-duty.
    • A combination of the sleeper berth and being off-duty.

Commercial drivers who are carrying passengers, such as school bus drivers, are also subject to an additional rule called the 60-/70-hour limit, which prohibits driving more than 60 to 70 hours over a period of seven to eight consecutive days.  Passenger-carrying drivers also have a 10-hour driving limit instead of an 11-hour driving limit, and a 15-hour limit instead of a 14-hour limit.  Additionally, they are subject to similar rules for using the sleeper berth.

Contact Overson Law to Review Your Trucking Accident Injury Claim

The HOS and other regulations are meant to reduce the risk of accidents.  Unfortunately, these regulations are “widely violated,” to quote the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which monitors truck accidents throughout the U.S.  In fact, one NHTSA study ranked feeling “under work pressure from [the] carrier” as one of the leading risk factors for large truck crashes, as we pointed out in our article on liability for truck accident injuries. 

If you or one of your loved ones was injured in a truck accident because the driver was speeding, falling asleep, or making other errors, you could be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses.  Personal injury attorney Darwin Overson will scrutinize the actions of the trucker who hit you to determine whether they violated any safety requirements.  To talk about whether you might have an accident claim in a free and private legal consultation, call the Salt Lake City intersection collision lawyers of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143 today.

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