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Recent Changes to Truck Driver Hours of Service Rules Aim to Make Trucking Safer

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As of July 1, 2013, several changes to the federal Hours of Service (HOS) rules for truck drivers have become final. The HOS rules limit the number of hours a truck driver can be on the road in any day or week. Intended to prevent driver fatigue and reduce the number of resulting accidents, the HOS rules are updated regularly as new research on human sleep and wakefulness becomes available.

Truck driver fatigue is a major cause of trucking accidents; as a result, any changes to the HOS rules are a topic of intense interest for any Denver truck accident attorney seeking to better protect injured clients. Changes to the HOS rules in 2013 include the following revisions:

Limits on 34-hour “restarts”

The 34-hour “restart” provision allowed truck drivers to “restart” the weekly clock – and it’s 60- or 70-hour limits – by taking 34 consecutive hours off-duty. Under the previous rule, truck drivers could take this 34-hour restart at any time, and there were no restrictions.

The new HOS rule requires that the 34-hour restart period include at least two periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. While drivers are not required to sleep during this time, they are encouraged to do so. The 34-hour restart may only be used once every week (168 hours), as measured from the beginning of the last restart period.

Rest breaks

Previous rules for rest breaks required at least one 30-minute break per 14-hour shift but did not state when the driver had to take the rest break or under what conditions the driver had to rest.

The new HOS rule requires the driver to take a rest break within the first eight hours of an on-duty shift. Drivers must not be required to perform any on-duty tasks during this break, like filling out paperwork or supervising other drivers. The only exception is for drivers transporting hazardous materials, who may be expected to stay with the cargo during their breaks.

On-duty time

Previous HOS rules limited a driver’s time spent on-duty to 14 hours in any 24-hour period, and the rules limit drivers to 11 hours behind the wheel within that 14-hour period.

While drivers may still only drive 11 hours, changes to the HOS rule subtracted time spent resting in a parked vehicle, such as sleeping in a truck’s sleeper berth, from the on-duty requirement. If a driver spends at least 8 hours asleep in the truck’s sleeper berth, the first two hours spent in the passenger seat after waking are also not counted as on-duty time.

These revisions are intended to keep both the driver of the truck and the other drivers on our nation’s roadways safe. There are hopes that mandating rest times and regulating on-duty time, will help to lower the amount of truck accidents on highways. 

At Levine Law, our Denver truck accident attorneys strive to provide outstanding representation to each client with whom we work. If you have been in an accident involving a semi-truck or other transportation vehicle, please contact our offices today.