One of the most recurrent allegations in trucking accidents is that the accident occurred because the driver was fatigued from driving “out of hours.” This means that the driver was in violation of federal regulations regarding the maximum number of driving hours or hours of service. 49 C.F.R. § 395.3.
The FMCSA issued a final rule regulating hours of service that became effective on February 27, 2012. The compliance date of selected provisions was July 1, 2013.
The new rule reduces the number of hours a driver can work within the week. The rule also mandates that drivers rest for at least thirty minutes before returning to work after an eight hour shift. Companies that commit egregious violations of the rule will be subject to fines and penalties.
To document compliance with these rules, drivers are required to keep daily driving logs in the form of a DOT chart. See 49 C.F.R. § 395.8. These logs must be kept current at all times and contain records of the following four kinds of time: (1) “off duty”; (2) “sleeper berth”; (3) “driving”; and (4) “on-duty not driving.” The log must be complete as of the last change of status.
Motor carriers run the risk of liability when hiring or retaining unqualified drivers. Among other things, motor carriers should ensure that all drivers comply with DOT “hours of service” rules. Violations may result in substantial DOT fines. Further, if a driver is driving “out of hours” and gets into an accident, there is a much greater risk that the jury may believe fatigue played a part in the accident.
If your company needs help developing a DOT commercial driver safety policy, contact one of the transportation law attorneys of Trepanier MacGillis Battina P.A.
About the Author:
Minneapolis transportation lawyer Bryan R. Battina advises clients, drafts contracts, and litigates disputes in the transportation industry for motor carriers and household goods moving companies. Bryan may be reached at 612.455.0505 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Trepanier MacGillis Battina P.A. is a Minneapolis transportation law firm located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.