Perhaps one of the occupations most susceptible to driver fatigue is long-haul trucking. Truckers spend long hours on the road, oftentimes overnight when traffic is lighter. These factors combine to induce drowsiness.
Drowsy driving is a significant danger. A drowsy driver can fall into microsleep, where they pass in and out of sleep without realizing it. Falling asleep behind the wheel is a recipe for a disastrous truck crash.
For these reasons, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has “hours of service” rules dictating how long a trucker can drive before they must take a rest break. Unfortunately, these rules are easy to break and the breaks are easy to hide.
Hours of service rules
Truckers may only drive up to 11 hours following a 10-hour off-duty break. The 10 hours must be consecutive. Truckers can split the 10 hours if they spend at least seven hours in a row in their sleeper berth.
Truckers are not permitted to drive more than 14 hours in a row after coming on duty following the 10-hour off-duty break.
Truckers are required to take a 30-minute rest break after driving eight cumulative hours uninterrupted.
Truckers may not operate their vehicles after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 days in a row. This period can restart once the trucker has spent at least 34 hours in a row off duty.
Truckers are permitted to add two hours to the operating limit and to the 14-hour driving period if they are driving during adverse weather or road conditions.
Are the hours of service rules easy to break?
Unfortunately, the hours of service rules are easy to break. No one is really watching each individual trucker to determine when they are driving and when they are resting.
Instead, truckers are expected to keep logbooks of their time on the road and their time at rest. These logbooks are to be available to inspection by officials.
But if the logbook is written rather than electronic it is easy to lose the logbook, write illegibly, not fill it out completely or outright lie.
If you are in a truck accident caused by a drowsy trucker, their logbook becomes an important piece of evidence of the trucker’s drowsiness. A missing or fudged logbook can be a problem. Still, you should make sure to gather evidence from the logbook that might support your case.