What is an HOS Violation?
Maintaining safety on the roads is critical, especially where trailer trucks are concerned. Their massive size alone means that a collision can result in significantly worse injuries and property damage than in a normal collision. Operating a commercial truck is, therefore, a serious undertaking. Drivers must adhere to a strict set of rules known as “hours of service (HOS) regulations.” An HOS violation occurs when one or more of these regulations is ignored, potentially leading to serious consequences. Let’s take a look at some of the more common HOS violations and what to do if you are involved in an accident as a result.
Common HOS Violations
The Hours of Service regulations are rules set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to prevent driver fatigue and reduce the risk of accidents on the road. HOS violations occur when drivers fail to comply with these regulations, putting themselves and others at risk. Some of the most common violations include:
Driving Past the Daily Limit
A very common HOS violation involves a truck driver operating during mandatory off-duty hours. The FMCSA requires ten consecutive hours of rest prior to starting a 14 hour work window. During that window, truckers are not to drive more than 11 hours in a row. The only exception is during adverse weather, when they are allowed to extend this time by two hours (16 hour total work window, 13 hours total spent driving).
Some drivers may feel pressure, especially during the busy holiday months, to drive past their 14 hour window in order to complete deliveries on time. This can result in driver fatigue and lead to swerving, poor reaction times, and other dangerous consequences.
Ignoring the 30-Minute Break Requirement
Another HOS violation happens when a truck driver does not take his or her required 30 minute break. The FMCSA requires truckers to rest for 30 minutes after driving for eight consecutive hours. This can be spent however the truck driver likes, so long as they are not operating the vehicle.
Again, some drivers may feel the need to skip their break in order to make up for lost time. 30 minutes may not sound like much, but it is enough time to eat, stretch, and reset for the rest of the drive. In other words, it can mean the difference between a rested, fed, and focused driver and a stressed, overtired one prone to making mistakes.
Ignoring the 60/70 Hour Weekly Limit
According to the HOS regulations, a truck driver may work no more than 60 hours total over seven consecutive days of driving, and no more than 70 hours total after eight consecutive days. They must be off-duty for 34 hours straight prior to re-starting the 7/8 day period.
Just as some drivers go past their 14-hour window, many will also inadvertently or intentionally operate the truck over the weekly limits. This can have significant consequences for the trucker, who will objectively be too tired to safely operate any vehicle, let alone an 80,000 lb trailer truck.
What Happens After an HOS Violation?
The repercussions for an HOS violation depend on the nature and severity of the infraction. Minor violations may result in a written warning or penalty. Serious or multiple violations can get a driver suspended and fined. If the trucking company is found to have been somehow involved in the HOS violation, it may also be subject to the same penalties.
When HOS Violations Cause Accidents
The HOS regulations exist for the purpose of keeping truck drivers and everyone else on the road safe. Even one small HOS violation can have devastating consequences. After all, truck accidents are almost never minor. What might be a simple fender bender between two similarly-sized vehicles can quickly become life-threatening when a truck is involved.
If you or someone you know was injured in a truck accident, it is important to speak to an attorney. These accidents are complicated: injuries are greater, there may be total loss of property, and there is often more than one party to be held responsible.
In Colorado, the attorneys at the Roth Group are here to help. Skilled, determined, and compassionate, we do not stop until you have received just compensation for your pain and suffering. Call or go online today to schedule a free consultation.