The trucking industry is critical in the movement of goods across vast distances. With over 13 million trucks registered in the US, 2.9 million of which are semi-trucks, it’s essential to ensure that regulations governing safety are in place. One critical aspect of trucking safety is managing driver fatigue, which can lead to accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets rules and regulations to determine how long truck drivers can drive before taking a break.


What are the hours of service rules?


These limits, called hours of service rules, detail how long a driver can:

  • Be on duty
  • Be behind the wheel without stopping for a break
  • Work in a given time period

Before FMCSA put these rules in place, many truck drivers were spending over 80 hours a week hauling cargo across U.S. highways with very little sleep or even rest breaks.

Because of the inherent dangers of driving while fatigued, the FMCSA established the hours of service rules to improve highway safety. These rules allow truck drivers to continue to make a living behind the wheel of a semi-truck without endangering their own lives and the lives of those around them.


How long can a truck driver drive at a time?


The maximum-hour driving limits for truck drivers seem complicated at first glance, but they are actually very straightforward.

11-Hour Rule: A truck driver can only drive for a maximum of 11 hours. Once a truck driver has spent 11 hours behind the wheel of a semi-truck, they must stop driving for at least 10 consecutive hours of off-duty rest. Once the driver has been off-duty for at least ten consecutive hours, they can start another 11-hour shift.

14-Hour Rule: Although a truck driver can drive for 11 hours, they must complete these 11 hours within a 14-hour time period. For example, if a truck driver starts driving at 8:00 am, he must stop driving 14 hours later at 10:00 pm even if has not yet driven for 11 hours.

Drivers can use the three extra hours of time to do things like:

  • Eat meals or snacks
  • Complete truck repairs
  • Fuel the semi-truck
  • Wait for vehicle inspections
  • Take a break

Once a truck driver hits the 14-hour deadline, they must go off duty for at least ten consecutive hours before they can begin driving again.


How often must truck drivers take breaks?


Truck drivers must take a 30-minute break after eight hours on the road.

If the truck driver continues to operate the truck after the eight-hour mark without taking a break, the driver will be in violation of the rest break rule.


How many hours can truck drivers drive in a week?


The FMCSA’s 60/70 hour rule limits the number of hours drivers can drive each week. For the purposes of these rules, calendar weeks are irrelevant.

Instead, at any given time, the driver must look at their accumulated driving hours from the past few days to determine whether they can continue driving. In other words, a truck driver’s work week is a “rolling week,” and it does not reset to zero on Monday.

60-Hour/Seven-Day Rule: If a trucking company does not put its vehicles on the road every day of the week, its drivers may only operate a truck for 60 hours within seven days.

70-Hour/Eight Days Rule: If a trucking company puts its vehicle on the road every day of the week, its drivers may only operate a truck for 70 hours within eight consecutive days.

The FMCSA also provides an optional restart provision for drivers. Under this rule, any driver can “restart” their work week at zero after a 34-hour, off-duty rest period.


Is a driver liable for a fatigue-related accident? 


You may be entitled to compensation if you were injured in a truck accident caused by an overworked or fatigued semi-truck driver.

If you can establish that the driver was in violation of FMCSA’s hours of service rules, you will be able to prove that the driver was negligent and, therefore, liable. If you can do so, you can recover compensation for the damages their negligence caused.

To prove this negligence, you need to gather evidence, such as the driver’s hours of service logs or data from the truck’s onboard electronic data recorder. Gathering these key pieces of evidence can be almost impossible for the average person as they are in the hands of the truck company.


Get the Compensation You Deserve with Experienced Truck Accident Lawyers


The truck accident lawyers at Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault Co. L.P.A. have experience preserving, gathering, and analyzing evidence to prove fault. We can also work with accident reconstructionists and expert witnesses to prove that the accident would not have occurred but for the driver’s hours of service violation.

Standing up against a trucking company, its insurer, and its experienced team of lawyers can be a daunting task. Our attorneys have hundreds of years of experience representing injured accident victims and would love the chance to represent you and protect your rights.

Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation with a truck accident lawyer: 419-843-6663.