According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tens of thousands of auto accidents occur every year due to drowsy driving or sleeping at the wheel. Truck drivers are no exception (and can often be even more dangerous). Truckers routinely log extended hours on the road, with the problem only exacerbated by trucking companies, which incentivize their drivers to get to a destination as fast as possible, encouraging few breaks and rest.
Those driving on Texas freeways should know some basic trucking laws if they find themselves in a potentially dangerous situation.
Federal Truck Driver ‘Hours of Service’ Laws
Hours of service laws attempt to curb fatigued driving among truckers by requiring specific amounts of rest periods and reducing consecutive driving hours. In Texas, federal and state rules govern trucking activity.
At the federal level, the agency that sets the hours of service rules for truck drivers is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These regulations apply to trucks operating in interstate commerce (crossing state lines).
The FMCSA hours of service laws include the following:
- A driver must have 10 consecutive hours off duty before beginning a shift.
- After 10 hours off duty, a truck driver may only be on duty for 14 consecutive hours. “On duty” time includes loading and unloading and other trucking-related duties, in addition to actual driving.
- During the 14 hours on duty, drivers may only be on the road for 11 of those hours.
- A 30-minute break is required for every eight consecutive driving hours.
- No driver may be on duty for more than 60 hours over a 7-day period or more than 70 hours over eight days. A driver may restart both periods after 34 consecutive off-duty hours.
- Drivers subject to the FMCSA regulations must keep driving logs to demonstrate compliance.
There are many other exceptions that the FMCSA allows for holiday driving, inclement weather, etc.
Texas-specific Trucking Guidelines
Texas’ current hours of service rules include the following:
- Before beginning a shift, a driver must have eight consecutive hours off duty.
- After this off-duty period, a truck driver may only be on duty for 15 consecutive hours.
- Drivers may only stay on the road for up to 12 hours at a time.
- No driver may be on duty for more than 70 hours over seven days. This period can restart after 34 continuous off-duty hours.
Texas rules are a bit laxer than federal rules, and that makes for further danger on the roads.
How a Texas Truck Accident Attorney Can Help After an Accident
If you’ve been hurt in a trucking incident, you’ll certainly want to consult a knowledgeable Texas trucking attorney. A reputable law firm will examine all of the facts of the incident to determine what kind of role fatigue and a lax following of the rules may have played in the accident.
Rabb & Rabb, PLLC has experience defending trucking accident victims across the Southwest. Call (520) 888-6740 to learn more and schedule a free consultation.