Accidents with 18-wheelers and other commercial trucks in interstate commerce are different than other accidents because FMCSA regulations (like the new HOS rule discussed below) are an issue. A violation of these rules is evidence that can be used against the truck driver and trucking company to get compensation for an accident victim and his or her family.

A new federal hours-of-service (HOS) rule reduces a semi truck driver’s average maximum allowable hours per week from 82 hours to 70 hours. The primary goal of the rule is to reduce excessively long work hours that increase the risk of fatigue-related crashes and resulting injury and wrongful death.

Although enactment of the new HOS rule does not ensure that it will be followed or that truck drivers will use the time off to get adequate rest, it is a long-overdue improvement that should save lives. The rule mainly affects long-haul truckload drivers who had worked more than 70 hours a week on a continuing basis.

The new HOS rule also requires truck drivers to take breaks. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency that promulgated and will enforce the rule:

Recent research found that any break from driving reduces risk in the hour following the break, but off-duty breaks produced the largest reduction. This study also showed that when non-driving activities (both work- and rest-related) were introduced during the driver’s shift—creating a break from the driving task—these breaks significantly reduced the risk of being involved in a safety critical event during the 1-hour window after the break. The benefits of breaks from driving ranged from a 30- to 50-percent reduction in risk with the greatest benefit occurring for off-duty (non-working) breaks.

Under the new HOS rule, driving (or allowing a truck driver to drive) 3 or more hours beyond the driving-time limit (11 hours in a day) may be considered an “egregious violation” and subject to the maximum civil penalties (fines) under FMCSA regulations:

Exceeding the normal driving-time limits by 3 or more hours would severely test driver stamina and substantially increase the risk of a fatigue-caused crash. A violation that serious warrants severe penalties.

If an 18-wheeler vs. car crash was caused by a truck driver who had been driving more than 14 hours (3 hours or more beyond the driving-time limit) in the preceding 24 hour period, the accident victims and their families may have a claim for punitive damages against the truck driver and trucking company.

Accident lawsuits involving commercial vehicles are complex and costly. It is extremely important to hire an attorney who knows the FMCSA regulations and has used them to win cases. Contact me for a free consultation, and I can help you understand your legal rights and how to protect them.

Attorney Eric Hageman helps accident victims and their families hold truck drivers and trucking companies accountable for accidents with a car, motorcycle, van, bus, bicycle or other vehicle. He has won millions for his clients. To contact Eric or another semi truck accident lawyer at our law firm, call 888-377-8900 (toll free) or submit our free consultation form.