The duties for truckers who are transporting cargo or passengers must be followed precisely or there is a risk that innocent people will be harmed. The Hours of Service regulations that are set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration help to ensure the public's safety.
The Hours of Service regulations let truckers know how many hours they are allowed to drive before they have to take a mandatory break. Truckers who drive longer than they are allowed to drive run the risk of being too fatigued to drive semitrucks.
Maximum driving hours
The number of driving hours that a trucker can drive per shift differs for drivers who are transporting cargo and those who are transporting people. For truckers who are carrying people, there is a 10-hour maximum per shift. There must be at least eight consecutive hours off duty in between each shift.
For truckers who are moving cargo, there is an 11-hour driving limit. The period between shifts must consist of at least 10 hours of off-duty time.
Shift hours don't trump driving hours
On top of having a limit to the number of hours a trucker can drive, there is a also a limit to how many hours the trucker can work on a shift. Once the shift limit is reached, the trucker can't drive even if he or she still has hours remaining for the driving time limit. The shift limit for cargo carrying truckers is 14 hours. For people-carrying truckers, the limit is 15 hours. This law does not stop truckers from doing non-driving work after the driving shift. However, this means that the start of the off-duty time is delayed.
Lack of rest isn't the only thing that can lead to fatigue
Obviously, lack of rest and lack of sleep can contribute to trucker fatigue, but these aren't the only causes of this issue. Medical conditions and environmental factors can also contribute. Sleep apnea, diabetes and obesity are three conditions that could have this impact. Driving in hot and stuffy conditions, on familiar roads or at night might all lead to troubles remaining awake.
Fatigued truckers may feel that they have to try to push through the fatigue, which can have tragic results. People who are injured in crashes with semitrucks should be aware of the potential issues that led to the fatigue as these could have an impact on who is held accountable for the damages in a civil lawsuit.