Hopefully you are well familiar with this saying: driving while distracted at highway speed is like traveling the length of a football field with your eyes closed. Imagine you’re doing so and pulling 80,000 pounds behind you. Now imagine you’re not the one driving, but you’re the driver who was hit by a fully loaded semi truck whose driver was checking Facebook.
Remember this 2013 trucking accident that caused the collapse of the bridge over I-5 near Mount Vernon? Distracted driving factored in, and let to a domino effect of errors that luckily killed no one.
Truck driving crashes have a much higher incidence of fatality than most other motor vehicle accidents. Cognitive distraction due to impairment is one of the leading causes of fatal truck accidents. Federal regulations have been established to try to keep truck drivers from driving distracted. Federal commercial vehicle regulations now include truck-driving limits intended to prevent fatigue and illness. There are three types of hours-of-service regulations that commercial truck drivers must adhere to:
- The 14-hour driving window – truck drivers are provided with a 14-hour “window” with which they can drive up to 11 hours; however, a truck driver must have been off duty for at least 10 hours in order to activate the window;
- The 11-hour driving limit – Within a truck driver’s 14-hour window, he is only allowed to drive his truck for 11 total hours; however, a driver must be within 8 hours of his or her last break, which is required to be at least 30 minutes. Put simply, a driver cannot drive for more than 8 consecutive hours without taking a 30-minute break;
- The 60/70-hour duty limit – A driver is not allowed to operate the truck for more than 60 hours within a seven–day period or more than 70 hours within an eight–day period;
- The 34-hour restart – If a truck driver wants to “restart” his 60 or 70-hour clock, he must take 34 consecutive hours off duty, including sleep. If the driver does not take the allotted time off, there are always “hours” left on the week that will not reset.
These regulations apply to the entire trucking industry and to the individual driver, not the trucking company itself. Further, “off-time” does not include resting in the truck at a rest stop or riding as a truck passenger. These regulations may be difficult to track, and truck drivers may be tempted to circumvent them in order to return home more quickly. It is important to contact Bill Coats Law and speak to an attorney who understands these complex regulations if you have been involved in a truck accident.