There are many reasons that accidents involving commercial trucks are legally and factually more complicated than accidents involving only passenger vehicles. One important aspect of which many people are unaware is the role Hours of Service (HOS) regulations can play in determining fault on the part of commercial vehicle drivers and their employers. Distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents among private vehicles. In fact, distraction is also a major factor in many commercial accidents, usually in the form of driver fatigue after an unreasonable amount of time behind the wheel. Federal HOS regulations were developed in order to alleviate this danger and keep commercial drivers awake and alert on the road.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently made some significant changes to their HOS regulations. As of now, truck and other commercial vehicle drivers are limited to the following:
- Operators may only put in 10 hours behind the wheel after at least 10 hours off duty.
- Operators may only drive during a 14-hour window after each 10-hour off duty period.
- Drivers must take at least a 30-minute break during every eight hours of driving.
- Drivers may not drive more than 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in eight days.
The FMCSA encourages compliance by requiring commercial drivers to keep logs of their hours on duty that detail their time behind the wheel and on breaks. These logs can become a valuable resource for North Carolina truck accident attorneys when there is reason to believe that driver distraction or fatigue played a role in a client’s accident and subsequent injury. Plaintiffs’ lawyers should promptly request logbooks and thoroughly review them for compliance. Their investigations should include close inspection and crosschecking to determine if the records are accurate and to expose situations in which logbooks may have been altered or contrived in order to avoid liability.