A driver who is fatigued may be just as much of a hazard on South Carolina’s roads as a motorist who is drunk. Truck drivers spend many hours behind the wheel and can become tired and “zone out” or even fall asleep.
As much as 13 percent of truck drivers are described as being fatigued at the time of a truck accident, making driver fatigue the sixth leading factor associated with truck accidents caused by driver behavior, according to a federal study of large truck crash causes.
There are strict rules in place to limit the number of hours truckers can drive in order to reduce the risk of fatigue-related crashes. Truck drivers do not always obey these rules. When they disobey the maximum hours-of-service rules, truckers may be held responsible for crashes that result from their fatigue.
If you have been involved in a truck accident in South Carolina, you should find out if drowsiness or fatigue was a factor and whether the driver followed the rules on the maximum drive time.
At Joye Law Firm, we can help you obtain the necessary records to determine if the driver broke the rules and we can assist in making a legal claim for monetary compensation after a truck crash caused by an overtired driver.
Hours-of-Service Rules and Truck Accidents
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets hours-of-service (HOS) rules designed to keep truckers from driving when they are too tired. The HOS rules impose limits on the number of hours a trucker can drive in one day, the number of hours a trucker can drive without a break and the number of hours a trucker can drive over the course of a week.
The FMCSA recently changed the hours-of-service rules. The new limits are:
- Drivers can drive for a maximum of 11 hours total per day and can drive for this long only after 10 hours off duty. The 11 hours of driving must be completed within 14 hours of the time when the driver first went on duty for the day. If drivers are transporting passengers, they are limited to 10 hours of daily drive-time.
- Drivers may not drive for more than 8 consecutive hours without taking a 30-minute rest break.
- Drivers are allowed to drive for a maximum of 60 hours over a period of 7 days and are allowed to drive for a maximum of 70 hours over a period of 8 days. Once a driver has reached the limit, he or she must take a break and spend a full 34 consecutive hours off duty before the weekly clock resets. The off-duty time must include at least two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. home terminal time.
- Drivers who use a sleeper berth need to spend at least 8 consecutive hours in the berth and must also take a separate 2 consecutive hours either off-duty, in the sleeper berth or some combination of the two.
Drivers must maintain logbooks of time spent on duty in order to prove compliance with HOS regulations. Trucking companies must also enforce the rules and should never permit or encourage drivers to drive for longer than the rules allow.
If a trucker fails to comply with the rules and an accident results, the rule violation may be used as evidence that the driver was negligent. Trucking companies may also be liable for the wrongful act of the driver or for the company’s own failure to enforce the rules.
Joye Law Firm is Here to Help
At Joye Law Firm, we can assist in obtaining driver logbooks, company policy manuals, employee schedules and other information needed to show that hours-of-service rules were violated. This evidence could help you recover compensation for injuries and losses that result from a truck accident caused by driver fatigue.
- FMCSA – Report to Congress on the Large Truck Crash Causation Study