Driving tractor-trailers that can weigh 80,000 lbs is dangerous and a truck accident can cause fatalities. The tractor-trailers themselves are complicated to drive even in the best weather conditions and are always difficult to stop. As a result, truck drivers must be adequately trained to operate commercial vehicles. In addition, truck drivers must be well rested and in good physical shape in order to drive safely.
Truck drivers, like any other profession, are driving so that they can provide for their families. The trucking companies they work for, likewise, are trying to move cargo and products across the country so they too can make profits. While this is a necessary part of commerce, it can lead to companies to force their drivers to drive longer hours. Long hours, night driving and the monotony of the road can be a recipe for disaster.
The Federal Government, recognizing the danger of tractor-trailers, passed laws that limit the amount of hours truck drivers can safely drive before they must rest. The rules for maximum driving hours are as follows:
- A driver carrying property cannot drive more than 11 hours following 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- A driver cannot operate a commercial vehicle after having been on duty 14 hours following 10 consecutive hours off-duty.
- A driver carrying passengers cannot drive more than 10 hours following 8 consecutive hours off-duty or operate a commercial vehicle after having been on duty 15 hours following 8 consecutive hours off-duty.
- A driver cannot operate a commercial vehicle after having been on duty 60 hours in any 7 consecutive days if the employing motor carrier does not operate commercial motor vehicles every day of the week.
- A driver cannot operate a commercial vehicle after having been on duty 70 hours in any consecutive 8 days if the employing motor carrier operates commercial vehicles every day.
- Any period of 34 consecutive off duty hours will reset the 7 or 8 consecutive days.
- Drivers using a sleeper berth must take at least 8 hours in the sleeper berth, and may split the sleeper berth into two time periods provided neither is less than 2 hours.
On duty time means all of the time a driver begins to work or is required to be ready to work until the driver is released from work. In addition to drive time, the on duty time includes, for example, all time a driver spends inspecting their vehicles, waiting at the terminal or plant, conducting repairs on their vehicles, and loading and unloading their vehicle.
In order to ensure that truck drivers are following the law, drivers are required to record his or her duty status on a grid for each 24-hour period. The truck driver must record their duty status as either “Off duty”, “Sleeper Berth”, “Driving” or On-duty not driving”. The duty status logs must be forwarded to the trucking companies within 13 days following the completion of the form. The daily log requirement does not apply to drivers who operate within a 100-mile radius of the normal work reporting location if the driver is released from work within 12 consecutive hours, has at least 10 hours off-duty time, does not exceed 11 hours maximum driving time, and the trucking company maintains accurate and true time records of the driver’s work for a period of six months.
There are certain exceptions to the maximum driving time rules. A driver who encounters adverse driving conditions and cannot safely complete his run may drive an additional 2 hours over the maximum hours to complete the run or reach a place of safety. In case of an emergency, a driver may exceed the maximum hours if the driver could have reasonably completed the run absent the emergency. A driver-salesperson who drives less than 40 hours in any period of 7 consecutive days does not have to comply with the maximum driving time rules. The regulations do not apply to drivers of commercial vehicles engaged solely in making local deliveries to the consumer during the Christmas holidays from December 10th to 25th. Finally, the regulations do not apply to the transportation of agricultural commodities within a 100-mile radius during planting or harvesting seasons.
A driver will be declared out of service (i.e. unable to drive) if he or she is caught driving after being on duty in excess of the maximum periods. In addition, the driver fails to have a current duty status log for that day and for the prior 7 consecutive days, they will be placed out of service. A carrier may not allow a driver who has been declared out of service for violating the maximum hours regulations until it is legal to do so under the regulations. A driver must notify the carrier within 24 hours of being placed out of service for such a violation. Importantly, the duty status logs must be kept for 6 months.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, contact the law offices of RAM Law for expert truck accident attorneys in New Jersey.