Federal Regulations for Truck Driver Hours: When They Must Take Breaks

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is part of the Department of Transportation (DOT), regulates truck drivers’ hours. It oversees the trucking industry and works to improve safety on our roads by enforcing federal regulations. Recently a change was made to the hours-of-service (HOS) rules regarding when truck drivers must take breaks.

Mandatory 30-Minute Break for Truck Drivers

As of July, 2013, new rules went into effect requiring that commercial motor vehicle operators who have not taken an off-duty break or used the sleeper berth for eight consecutive hours must take at least one half of an hour break. During this 30-minute timeframe the driver can eat, rest or perform other off-duty tasks.

Although the HOS rules in themselves help decrease fatigue behind the wheel, this mandatory 30-minute break may further help prevent exhaustion. Driving for long periods of time can cause impairment and in turn, increases the risk of an accident.

How the 30-Minute Break Rule Impacts Other Hours-of-Service Rules

The 11-hour driving limit still applies. Truckers can drive a maximum of 11 hours during a 14-hour period, which is the daily limit and begins when work starts. Let’s say a truck driver starts work at 7 a.m. and is immediately on the road.

The trucker can drive until 3 p.m. (8 hours), but then must take a break until at least 3:30 p.m. Since the total number of driving hours allowed is 11, the trucker can still drive another three hours during the 14-hour period, which in this case ends at 9 p.m.

Another example would be a trucker who drives four hours and then takes a 30-minute break. There would still be another seven hours of driving time left. It doesn’t matter how it’s broken up, as long as the trucker doesn’t exceed the 11-hour driving time and that after eight straight hours of being on duty, the driver takes a 30-minute break.

Ways the 30-Minute Break Rule Could Impact a Truck Accident Case

These rules are important, not only for reducing drowsiness and the risk of a crash, but it could factor into a truck accident case. A driver who fails to adhere to these rules is not only in violation, but it could be the cause of or contribute to a crash. If the truck driver was tired or had fallen asleep at the wheel, this could be substantiated if the driving records indicate no break was taken after being on the road for eight consecutive hours.

Another issue that could impact the case is learning the trucking company wouldn’t allow the truck driver to take a 30-minute break. Of course, whether or not this is the situation, if a driver is found at fault for an accident, the trucking company would still be liable. That’s because it is responsible for the actions of its employees.

Learn more about how federal trucking regulations could factor into your case. If you’re in the Denver area, set up your consultation with D.J. Banovitz today by visiting our online contact form or calling us at 303-300-5060.

D.J. Banovitz’ career has always concentrated on trial practice and he has litigated hundreds of cases. His passion and sole career focus has been to seek justice for people suffering from personal injuries as the result of someone else’s negligence. The hallmark of the Law Office of D.J. Banovitz, is the total commitment to professionalism, quality, and personalized care of your injury case. D.J. has dedicated his professional life to helping those most in need and is a proud and active member of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association. His experience includes volunteering for Colorado Rural Legal Services in Montrose, the Colorado Aids Project, consumer law, family law, criminal defense, and Alternative Defense Counsel for juveniles in Denver.