If you or a loved one suffered a commercial truck accident, it's important to know hours-of-service regulations. Learn about commercial drivers' obligations.

How HOS Regulations Differ for Commercial Property- and Passenger-Carrying Drivers

Large trucks and buses create a risk on America's roadways due to their size and difficulty in maneuvering. In 2014 alone, 3,981 people were killed in Three Semi Trucks in a Parking Lotaccidents involving large vehicles, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Hours-of-service (HOS) regulations work to make the roads safer for the drivers of large vehicles who frequently experience fatigue, as well as protect their passengers, cargo, and other drivers, by limiting the amount of time drivers of large vehicles can work. These HOS rules differ for commercial drivers, depending on if they carry goods or passengers.

What Counts as On-Duty Time?

When discussing HOS regulations, it’s important to define what it means for a commercial driver to be on duty—because so often, drivers on long hauls live, eat, and sleep in their commercial vehicle.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines on-duty time to be:

  • All time spent at any facilities or property of the carrier or shipper—even time spent waiting to begin the drive
  • All time inspecting the large vehicle, maintaining it, and preparing it for the journey
  • All time spent in the vehicle, except for while in specific spots for rest
  • All time performing any duty for the transportation company
  • Any time spent waiting for loading or unloading
  • Any time spent waiting for repairs on a disabled vehicle

The Regulations for Property-Carrying Drivers

Both federal and state regulations exist to prevent property-carrying commercial drivers from overworking themselves. Alert drivers who follow these regulations help to prevent fatigue-related accidents and protect other motorists.

A few of the most notable federal HOS regulations include:

  • The 11-Hour Limit. A driver may not exceed a driving time of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours of rest.
  • The 14-Hour Limit. A trucker may not exceed on-duty time of 14 hours. After driving 11 consecutive or non-consecutive hours within that 14-hour window, he must rest for 10 consecutive hours before getting on the road again.
  • Rest Breaks. A driver may only get back on the road if 8 or fewer hours have passed since the end of driver’s last off-duty or sleeping period.
  • Sleeper Berth Provision. A driver must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus 2 additional hours of off-duty time before returning to the road.

How Passenger-Carrying HOS Regulations Differ

Drivers of large trucks or buses carrying passengers follow different rules than truckers transporting cargo. These rules for passenger-carrying vehicles work to protect both the drivers and the passengers.

The most significant differences include:

  • The 10-Hour Driving Limit. Drivers may not exceed a maximum of 10 hours driving time after resting for 8 consecutive off-duty hours.
  • The 15-Hour Limit. A trucker may not drive after being on duty for 15 consecutive hours after 8 consecutive hours of off-duty time. Also, off-duty time isn’t part of the 15-hour period.
  • Sleeper Berth Provision. A driver must take at least 8 hours in a sleeper berth, but he may divide the time up into two separate, non-consecutive periods, as long as neither period is less than two hours.
  • The 60/70 Limit. Truckers may not drive after reaching 60/70 hours of on-duty time within a consecutive 7/8-day period.

How Are These Regulations Enforced?

Because property and passenger transportation requires much concentration, attention, and skill, it’s important that all drivers of large vehicles abide by these rules and work together to keep roadways safe.

Penalties for not following these rules are:

  • Mandatory off-duty time. If a driver fails to comply with HOS regulations, she may be placed on mandatory off-duty time until she has accumulated enough off-duty hours to be back in compliance.
  • Fines. Depending on local and state law enforcement, a driver may be required to pay fines as a penalty for failing to comply. Additionally, the FMCSA may impose monetary penalties, anywhere from $1,000 to $11,000 per violation, depending on the severity of the violation.
  • Safety rating downgrade. A driver’s decision to break the rules may result in a lowering of his carrier’s federal safety rating if he has a habit of violations. Additionally, the government can impose criminal penalties if he knowingly breaks the rules.

Even driving three hours past what the regulations allow can be considered an egregious offense. Also, transportation companies sometimes permit their drivers to break the rules, and the companies could face similar fines and penalties for allowing the violations.

We Are Here to Help

Because evaluating HOS regulations can be complicated, it’s important to consult an experienced lawyer with any questions you have. The skilled team at the Andrew Kim Law Firm, PLLC, is ready to answer your questions and help you build your case against the commercial driver who caused your accident. To get started on your case, start a live chat with us online today.