a truck driver yawns behind the wheel | Coplan and Crane

What Are Hours of Service Rules, and Why Do They Matter in Truck Accident Claims?

September 8, 2023

Even with set hours of service rules, truck drivers spend long hours behind the wheel, often leading to serious crashes and subsequent truck accident claims. Studies have shown that extended periods of driving can lead to fatigue, and lack of sleep between driving sessions can cause chronic fatigue as well. Since fatigue can have effects similar to low-level alcohol intoxication, it is critical that truck drivers get adequate rest. Those who don’t not only put themselves at risk, but they put others at risk as well. 

To help ensure that truck drivers get adequate rest, the federal government has enacted Hours of Service Regulations. These regulations place limits on the number of hours that truck drivers can spend behind the wheel. Compliance with the Hours of Service Regulations is mandatory; and, when truck drivers and trucking companies ignore them, truck accident victims can use this to seek just compensation. 

The Hours of Service Rules for Truck Drivers 

The Hours of Service Regulations establish different requirements for “property-carrying” and “passenger-carrying” drivers. The “property-carrying” rules that apply to commercial truck drivers are as follows:

  • 11-Hour Driving Limit – Truck drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours out of the driver’s seat. 
  • 14-Hour Driving Limit – Truck drivers may not drive more than 14 consecutive hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. 
  • 30-Minute Driving Break – Truck drivers must take at least a 30-minute break after driving for at least 8 hours without a 30-minute interruption. 
  • 60/70 Hour Limit – Truck drivers may not drive after 60 hours on duty in 7 consecutive days. They may not drive after 70 hours on duty in 8 consecutive days. 

While these are the general rules, there are some exceptions. For example, drivers can extend both the 11-hour and 14-hour driving limits by up to two hours if they encounter “adverse driving conditions.” Additionally, truck drivers may be exempt from the hours of service rules if they qualify as “short-haul” drivers, which means that they operate within a 150-mile radius of their normal pick-up or drop-off location. 

Although the Hours of Service Regulations can seem complicated if you aren’t familiar with them, truck drivers and trucking companies are well aware of what the law requires. Unfortunately, many truck drivers and trucking companies still choose to ignore the rules. They put their profits before other people’s safety—and they often do so with devastating consequences. 

Filing a Truck Accident Claim After an Hours of Service Violation 

When truck drivers and trucking companies ignore the Hours of Service Rules, they can be held liable for the consequences of their mistakes. Fatigue is a leading cause of commercial truck accidents; and, in many cases, truck drivers are fatigued because they have spent too many hours behind the wheel. 

Violating the Hours of Service Regulations is a form of negligence, and truck drivers and trucking companies can be held liable for negligence under Illinois law. There are several ways to prove that a truck driver was fatigued due to an hours-of-service violation, including (but not limited to):

  • Obtaining the Truck Driver’s Log – Truck drivers are required to maintain driving logs to document their compliance with the Hours of Service Regulations. If a truck driver’s log shows that he or she was not in compliance, this can help prove a claim for damages. 
  • Obtaining the Truck’s Telematics Data – Even if a truck driver’s log says that he or she is in compliance, the truck’s onboard computer may say otherwise. Modern trucks collect numerous types of data, from speed and telemetry data to hours of service. Commercial trucks’ onboard data recorders will serve as key sources of evidence in many cases. 
  • Reviewing Internal Documents and Communications – Truck drivers’ payroll records, communications between truck drivers and dispatchers, and other types of internal documents and communications can be used to prove hours of service violations as well. 
  • Taking Testimony Under Oath – When you hire a lawyer to represent you, your lawyer can take the truck driver’s testimony, dispatcher’s testimony, and other individuals’ testimony under oath. When facing the penalties of perjury, they may admit to violating the Hours of Service Regulations. 

Discuss Your Truck Accident Claim with a Lawyer in Chicago, IL

If you or a loved one was involved in a truck accident and you believe that a violation of the Hours of Service Violations may be to blame, we strongly encourage you to contact us for more information. 
Contact Coplan + Crane today online or at (312) 982-0588 for a FREE case evaluation with an experienced truck accident lawyer. We serve clients throughout Illinois, including Chicago, Oak Park, Rockford, and other areas.