How the Hours of Service of Commercial Vehicles Affect Personal Injury Suits
Because of the size, weight and speed of their vehicles, drivers of large commercial trucks and buses are held to a higher standard of safety than drivers of smaller passenger vehicles. In addition to restrictions on the size of payloads and rules for vehicle maintenance, truck drivers and trucking companies must prevent driver fatigue by abiding with hours-of-service regulations. Failure to ensure that proper rest time is enforced can lead to dangerous and expensive accidents that require the involvement of a car accident lawyer.
When investigating a truck or bus accident, an important thing to understand is that the rules are different for truck and bus drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which sets the rules for commercial carriers, categorizes truck drivers as property-carrying operators and bus drivers as passenger-carrying operators.
In terms of hours of service, there is an 11-hour driving limit for property-carrying drivers. However, not all of a truck driver’s duties take place behind the wheel, so the FMCSA specifies that truck operators are not permitted to drive after the 14th consecutive hour on duty.
Note, though, that neither of those limits may be met unless the driver has been off duty for 10 consecutive hours.
For bus drivers, there is a 10-hour driving limit. Like truck drivers, bus drivers also have duties outside of operating a vehicle. Passenger-carrying drivers are therefore prohibited from driving after being on duty for 15 hours.
Truck and bus accidents tend to be more complicated than passenger vehicle crashes, not only because of the special regulations involved, but also because there may be multiple parties that are liable for injuries. Those parties may include the driver, the trucking company, the vehicle manufacturer and the insurance company.