Across North Carolina on both interstate highways and local streets, semitrucks traverse the state to move all kinds of goods. Of course, these massive vehicles share the roads with commuters in much smaller sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks. When an unlikely accident occurs between a semi and the smaller passenger vehicles, the outcome can often be significantly more severe given the sheer size and weight of the 18-wheelers.
Recognizing how important trucking is to the supply chain and economy, but also the added danger these trucks pose, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration oversees regulations that apply to trucking companies and drivers. These rules are meant to promote the safe and efficient operation of these vehicles to help avoid unnecessary accidents that can have major consequences for all involved.
Hours of Service rules
One of the areas the FMCSA focuses on is the amount of driving a single person may perform over a period of time. The goal is to help avoid driver fatigue, which is a major cause of accidents. Having a hard rule in place helps control expectations of both the trucking companies and the drivers in completing assigned work.
The Hours of Service rules are split into two categories of operators – property-carrying drivers and passenger-carrying drivers. For those moving goods, there is an 11-hour cap on driving after a 10 hour rest period. In comparison, bus drivers have a 10 hour-limit on driving following at least 8 hours off-duty.
In addition, neither type of carrier can drive after spending 60 hours driving in 7 days, or 70 hours driving in 8 days. Those moving goods, however, also must take at least 34 hours off duty before returning to the road.
As of September 2020, there are a few carve-outs in the rule meant to make it a bit more flexible in certain situations. For example, if there is adverse weather – such as significant rain or snow – the amount of time allowable is extended an additional 2 hours. There is also an exception for short-haul drivers, allowing for a 14 hour work shift if within a 150 mile area.
Impact of rule violations
Despite having rules in place, there are times that drivers – and even the companies that employ them – push the limits and exceed the allowable time on the road. In situations where the inevitably tired drivers cause a serious accident, the fact that these rules were broken can serve as an important benchmark for negligence in a personal injury lawsuit.
Given the importance of ensuring those driving such large vehicles do so safely, when there is a violation and someone suffers as a result, seeking compensation for all of the pain caused is a vital lifeline in the path towards recovery.