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"Hours of service" rules meant to reduce LA truck accidents

One of the major reasons behind large-truck accidents is truck driver fatigue. As many Lafayette, Louisiana, residents might be aware, fatigue often sets in when truck drivers are behind the wheel for long periods without taking adequate breaks. The reasons for such long hours behind the wheel may be many. For example, some truck drivers may drive for long hours to make up for lost time while others might be forced by their trucking companies to meet deadlines.

Sadly, when such truck drivers are behind the wheel for too many consecutive hours, the chances of being involved in a truck accident are significantly high. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) acknowledges this risk. Therefore, it has strict rules in place regarding the amount of time a driver is permitted to spend driving the truck, and the mandatory amount of time that the driver must rest. The FMSCA "hours of service" rules apply to all commercial truck drivers and have been in effect since Feb. 2012.

The first rule states that a truck driver is not supposed to drive any more than 11 hours consecutively. Moreover, that 11-hour period is permitted only after the driver had at least 10 hours of off-duty time. The rules also prohibit a driver from driving for more than 14 hours under any circumstances, if that driver is operating the vehicle after the stipulated 10-hour break.

The rules also state that it is mandatory for a truck driver to take rests, including time on a sleeper berth, if the truck has one. The time spent on the sleeper berth should be a minimum of 30 minutes. Even after that break, the truck driver is only allowed to drive the vehicle for a maximum of 8 hours. In the event that a truck driver wants to take advantage of the sleeper berth, the stipulated rest period is 8 consecutive hours with 2 additional hours either before or after that, either in the berth or somewhere away from the truck.

Additionally, under no circumstances is a truck driver allowed to drive for more than 70 or 80 hours in a 7- or 8-day stretch. Even after that amount of time, the FNSCA makes it mandatory for the drivers to be off duty for at least 34 consecutive hours before the driver can return to driving on the road.

Source: FMSCA.gov, "Summary of Hours of Service Regulations," accessed on June 16, 2015

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