Texas intrastate hours of service
Approximately 100,000 car crashes annually are caused by drowsy driving or sleeping at the wheel, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These fatigued driving accidents result in about 1,550 deaths and 71,000 injuries every year.
Perhaps no one is more susceptible to fatigued driving than truck drivers, who routinely log extended hours on the road making long hauls across the country. Unfortunately, this problem is exacerbated by the trucking companies, who create incentives for their drivers to get from point A to point B as fast as possible, with minimal stops for rest.
Truck driving hours of service laws
Recognizing the profound danger of driving on too little sleep and the frequent occurrence of fatigued driving in the trucking industry, lawmakers have responded by imposing limits on the hours that an individual truck driver may operate. If a driver is found in violation, the trucking company may be fined by the government.
Hours of service laws attempt to curb fatigued driving among truckers by requiring certain amounts of rest periods and reducing the number of hours that drivers can remain on the road consecutively. In Texas, there are two sets of rules moderating legal driving hours for truck drivers, one on the national level and another on the state level.
Federal hours of service laws for interstate trucking
At the federal level, the agency that sets the hours of service rules for truck drivers is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The FMCSA regulations apply to trucks operating in interstate commerce, that is, trucks that cross state lines or are otherwise involved in business operations in multiple states.
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 ancillary duties, in addition to actual driving.
- During the 14 hours on duty, drivers may only be on the road for 11 total hours.
- A 30-minute break is required for every 8 consecutive hours of driving.
- No driver may be on duty for more than 60 hours over a period of 7 days or more than 70 hours over a period of 8 days. The 7-day or 8-day period may be restarted after 34 continuous off-duty hours.
- Drivers subject to the FMCSA regulations must keep logs of their driving records and compliance with the above rules.
There are several exceptions to the federal hours of service rules. Notable exceptions include:
- The 11-hour limit may be exceeded by 2 hours in the event of adverse driving conditions due to poor weather.
- Driving limits are relaxed during the holiday season (December 10th – 25th) only for drivers making department store deliveries within a 100-mile radius of their work-reporting location.
Texas hours of service rules for trucks operating in intrastate commerce
For truck drivers who remain within Texas state lines and are not involved in business within multiple states, the Texas hours of service rules apply rather than the federal regulations. Texas’ current hours of service rules include the following:
- A driver must have 8 consecutive hours off duty before beginning a shift.
- After 8 hours off duty, a truck driver may only be on duty for 15 consecutive hours.
- Drivers may only stay on the road for up to 12 consecutive hours.
- No driver may be on duty for more than 70 hours over a period of 7 days. The 7-day period may be restarted after 34 continuous off-duty hours.
As you can see, the rules applicable to intrastate truckers (those solely operating in Texas) are a bit more permissive than the federal laws.
Implications of hours of service laws on commercial truck accidents
The hours of service rules above are enforced by the respective federal and state agencies tasked with regulating the trucking industry. In order to keep truckers compliant with the semi-truck driving hour regulations, fines may be levied against the trucking companies for violations of the law. However, the hours of service rules also have implications in the event of a trucking accident.
If a truck driver is involved in a collision and later found to be in violation of the applicable hours of service regulations, the violation is considered negligence on the part of the driver. If you have spent much time reading this website, you already know that the victim of an auto accident must prove negligence in order to be compensated for their injuries. So, discovering that a truck driver was on the road past the legal limits can be a huge factor in obtaining a favorable settlement or judgment after an accident.
How a truck accident attorney can help
If you have been injured in a truck accident where driver fatigue may have been a contributing factor, a skilled Houston 18-wheeler accident attorney can help investigate and determine whether the truck driver was in compliance with all relevant hours of service laws.
Personal injury attorney Richard Schechter has been helping truck accident victims get fair compensation for their injuries for over 35 years and has direct experience using hours of service laws to help win cases. Contact our office today to find out how we can help you get a favorable settlement and get back on your feet.