Truck Accidents, Injuries and Driver Fatigue — A Deadly Combination

As a Georgia truck accident lawyer, I know it is critically important for the public’s safety that truck companies and drivers follow the rules that govern how long a driver is permitted to stay on the road, among many other important guidelines. Serious truck accidents, injuries and even deaths are often caused by driver fatigue.

What many might not know is that there are both federal and Georgia state guidelines on precisely how long a driver can be on the road. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is responsible for enforcing the regulations that provide clear guidelines as to the length of time that truck drivers, such as those driving 18 wheelers, are allowed to drive. These regulations are intended to make sure that drivers do not get into their trucks and out on to the nation’s highways when they are fatigued and are intended for the public’s safety.

The provisions for hours of service are found in Part 395 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This agency is part of the United States Department of Transportation.

Drivers of large tractor-trailers are limited to how long they may drive. The hours-of-service regulations apply to drivers of commercial motor vehicles. There are many specific ways to determine whether a vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle.

In general, under the federal laws, a commercial motor vehicle is a truck or a tractor-trailer that is engaged in what is called interstate commerce and has an actual weight or a weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds or carries hazardous waste in a quantity that requires a hazardous waste placard. Other commercial vehicles include those that carry a certain number of passengers.

Hours-of-service regulations focus on when and how long a truck driver is permitted to drive and the total number of hours that a driver can work before that driver is no longer permitted to drive. There are certain maximums that apply to this which are called the 14-hour duty limit, the 60/70-hour duty limit and the 11-hour driving limit. The 60/70-hour duty limit is based on a seven or eight day period and restricts the total number of hours a driver has driven or worked in these time frames. The 60/70-hour rule is quite detailed and is found in sections 395.3(b) and (c).

There are some exceptions, but in general tractor-trailer drivers are only allowed to be on duty for 14 consecutive hours and once they have reached this time limit they must not drive again for another 10 consecutive hours. The 14-hour limit includes lunch or nap breaks. In addition, a truck driver cannot drive more than 11 hours during that 14-hour time frame. Once this limit has been reached, the driver must take off for another 10 hours.

This is an important issue in driver fatigue truck crashes. In an injury case involving a large truck that would be governed by these regulations, it is important to find out how long the driver has been driving. As an experienced trucking crash lawyer, I learn this by securing driving logs and other information from the truck driver, the trucking company and its records.

Trucking accidents can cause very serious injuries or death. As a Gwinnett County, Georgia truck accident attorney with offices throughout the Atlanta metro region, I handle truck accidents and truck injury cases in all surrounding cities and counties, including Duluth, Fulton County, Grayson, Gwinnett County and more. Please contact our law firm for a free confidential consultation at our main Gwinnett County law office, or at our offices in Decatur, the Perimeter and Buckhead.

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