The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours of service regulations are designed to prevent accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers and protect motorists in Pennsylvania and around the country. The current rules were put into place in 2013, but they have been widely criticized by trade groups including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. According to the OOIDA, the present 14-hour regulation compels drivers to remain behind the wheel even when they are tired and forces them onto the roads in poor weather and when traffic is at its heaviest.
To abide by the FMCSA hours of service rules, truck drivers may not drive after they have been on duty for 14 hours, and off-duty periods do not extend this time limit. According to the OOIDA, this encourages drivers to cover as many miles as possible before their 14-hour clocks run out and may deter them from taking breaks when they feel drowsy.
The trade group has petitioned the FMCSA to allow truck drivers to effectively pause their 14-hour clocks by taking rest breaks of up three hours. The OOIDA also wants the FMCSA to scrap the rule requiring commercial vehicle drivers to take a 30-minute break during their first eight hours behind the wheel. Under the OOIDA proposal, truck drivers would still have to spend at least 10 hours off-duty before starting their next shift.
Hours of service rules are important because commercial vehicles weigh as much as 40 tons and can cause catastrophic damage. Experienced personal injury attorneys may suspect that fatigue played a role when tractor-trailer drivers took no evasive action before crashing, and they may consult hours of service logbooks, police reports and the electronic data stored on black box-type devices when preparing semi truck accident lawsuits. This information could establish how much distance trucks covered in the hours before a crash and how long their drivers had been on duty.