Brian White | October 20, 2023 | Truck Accidents
Commercial truck drivers are essential to getting goods to market across the country. The large trucks they operate are critical to this mission but have considerable risks.
The National Safety Council reports that although large commercial trucks and tractor-trailers account for only five percent of all registered vehicles in the United States, they account for ten percent of all vehicle miles traveled.
More concerning, they account for nine percent of all vehicles involved in fatal wrecks. In 2021 alone, approximately 5,700 large trucks were involved in fatal accidents. Unfortunately, many of those killed in truck accidents are the occupants of motor vehicles. Occupants of commercial trucks only accounted for about 16 percent of truck accident fatalities.
Regulations Designed To Increase Safety
Recognizing the immense danger that large commercial trucks present to others on the road, state and federal governments have enacted regulations governing how these vehicles are operated. This includes regulations restricting who can operate commercial trucks and the conditions under which they can be driven.
For example, a commercial truck must:
- Be driven by a driver possessing a commercial driver’s license
- Have a driver who is medically cleared and fit to operate the truck
- Not exceed certain weight limitations
- Follow marked paths around certain cities to avoid other traffic
Another important restriction designed to increase truck safety is the hours of service that a truck driver must abide by. This restriction affects the number of hours a driver can operate their vehicle, and failing to follow these restrictions can adversely impact their commercial driver’s license.
Rules Relating To Hours of Service
A commercial driver must follow three separate rules when it comes to operating their truck. These rules are:
Driving Window of 14 Hours
First, drivers can work during a period of 14 consecutive hours, including driving up to 11 of those hours. However, the driver cannot drive any amount of time outside that 14-hour window without taking ten consecutive hours off to rest.
For instance, suppose that you start work at 7:00 a.m. on Monday after having rested for ten consecutive hours immediately before coming on duty. You may drive until 9:00 p.m. Monday evening. However, once 9:00 p.m. comes around, you cannot drive anymore without taking another ten hours off to rest. This is true even if you did not drive much during this window.
11-Hour Driving Limit
Next, a commercial driver cannot drive more than 11 hours during the 14-hour window. Moreover, if the driver intends to drive the full 11 hours, they must have a break of at least 30 minutes after operating their truck for eight hours. Once the driver has reached the 11-hour limit, they must not drive until they have rested from driving for at least ten consecutive hours.
Weekly Driving Limits
In addition to these daily limits, commercial drivers must also abide by weekly limits. These weekly limits are calculated on a “rolling” basis and limit the number of hours a driver can be on duty and driving.
Depending on how many days of the week a driver’s company operates vehicles, this limit may either be 60 hours during a rolling seven-day period or 70 hours during a rolling eight-day period.
Commercial Driving Comes With Responsibilities
While the hours a truck driver is permitted to drive are not the only regulations they are subject to, following them is essential to keeping one’s commercial driving license. Commercial drivers must not only keep a record of when they are on duty and when they have rested, but they can also face serious repercussions if they attempt to drive when they are not permitted to do so.
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