Truck drivers in Houston, Texas, even if they drive out of the state boundary lines, specific laws apply to their conduct and working hours to keep others on the road safe. As a Texas truck accident law firm, we would like to take a moment to explain some of the hours-of-service regulations to truck accident victims to help them understand how these rules can impact their cases.
Fatigued Driver Statistics
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted that around 91,000 vehicular accidents happen annually due to drowsy driving. In addition, fatigued driving contributes to approximately 800 deaths each year. Not to mention, every year, 50,000 injuries occur from accidents involving a weary driver.
Shockingly, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that one out of 25 adult drivers admitted to falling asleep while driving in the past month.
Based on other statistics from the CDC, commercial drivers are one of the groups of individuals most at risk for drowsy driving. This revolves around long-distance commercial truck drivers who log quite a few hours. Of course, it doesn’t help that some trucking companies provide financial incentives to those who make it from one city to another in a short amount of time, leading to drivers taking few breaks and not sleeping as they should.
Why the Need for Regulations
When a person is running on too little sleep, their reaction time slows, so they may have difficulty making quick decisions on the road. The effects of driving after not getting enough sleep are comparable to drunk driving.
Lawmakers took notice of the dangers of fatigued driving and decided to create driving limits and sleep requirements to keep the driver and others on the road safe.
Rules for Intrastate Drivers
All truck drivers who deliver in Texas alone, meaning they don’t travel out of the state lines, are subject to state hours of service laws in Texas as opposed to federal regulations.
The Federal HOA Rules
Firstly, all drivers must have eight consecutive hours off before starting every shift. Once Texas truck drivers have those eight hours off and return, they can only remain on duty for 15 straight hours.
State laws in Texas require intrastate drivers only drive for up to 12 consecutive hours maximum. Over seven days, a driver may only be on duty for 70 hours. After 34 hours of being off duty, the seven-day period resumes, and the driver may work up to another 70 hours a week. Many violations are discovered only after a lawsuit is filed and a truck accident lawyer investigates the crash.
Vehicles Hauling Property
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a driver has an 11-hour driving limit after having 10 consecutive hours off when they’re hauling cargo.
Moreover, when the driver hauls cargo, the law states they may not be on duty beyond the 14th straight hour after their shift begins. Before that shift, they must have at least 10 consecutive hours off.
The “on duty” time includes any time the driver spends unloading or loading or any other responsibilities besides driving.
Even if the driver has a longer period off, it doesn’t extend the time they can drive.
Vehicles Hauling Passengers
Passenger-carrying vehicles have more restrictive laws. The driver may only drive for 10 consecutive hours after at least eight hours when they’re not on duty. Those hauling passengers can’t drive after they’ve been on duty for 15 hours. Before those hours on duty hours, the individual must have had at least eight hours when they were off duty.
Drivers who carry passenger vehicles must only work for 15 hours at a time, which includes pick-up times. Before those 15 hours, the driver must have at least 10 hours off duty.
Remember that the off-duty time doesn’t count toward the 15-hour timeframe when they can work.
Break Time Requirements
If a driver who hauls cargo has been driving for eight continuous hours without 30 minutes of non-driving throughout the shift, they need a 30-minute break. The break may include them being on duty but not driving. There needs to be a break time law for passengers who carry passengers.
Seven-Day Driving Limits
A driver who carries cargo may only drive for 60 to 70 hours when being on for seven or eight consecutive days. The seven or eight-hour-consecutive period resumes after a driver has a 34-hour or longer period without being on duty. Then, they may drive for another 60 to 70 hours.
When a driver carries passengers, they may not drive more than 60 to 70 hours in a stretch of seven to eight straight days.
Sleeper Berth Requirements Drivers
With a sleeper berth, their vehicles are subject to specific laws regarding how much time they spend in the berth. For instance, a driver who carries cargo must have at least 10 hours off duty. This time includes both the time in and out of the sleeper berth.
During this time off, they need at least seven hours in the sleeper berth. The time may be broken up, but at least seven consecutive hours must be spent in the sleeper berth. The off-duty time doesn’t count toward the 14-hour driving window.
When drivers carry passengers, they must have a minimum of eight hours in the sleeper berth. It can be split into two periods. However, both periods may be at least two hours.
Drivers who haul passengers may extend their driving and on-duty time by two hours. The same applies to drivers who carry cargo.
The driving limits are more lenient during the holiday season, from December 10th to December 25th, for drivers who make deliveries to department stores. However, this only applies to those who deliver within a 100-mile radius of their starting location.
Driving Log Requirements
Any driver following FMCSA regulations must keep an accurate log of their driving times to prove they were compliant with federal regulations regarding dr. In addition, Texas has also made it mandatory for intrastate drivers to keep a log of driving times.
Special Rules for Truckers Operating only in Texas (intrastate)
As you’ll notice, Texas laws for intrastate driving are less restrictive than federal laws. Rules for Interstate Driving Texas drivers traveling between states have federal regulations to adhere to rather than state laws. These laws are more restrictive for the driver.
GENERAL RULE – All Carriers – Intrastate in Texas (37 TAC 4.12)
12-Hour Rule (37 TAC 4.12(a)(2))
Drivers are allowed to drive for 12 hours following 8 consecutive hours off duty.
15-Hour Rule (37 TAC 4.12(a)(2))
A motor carrier cannot permit or require a driver to drive after 15 hours are spent on duty following 8 consecutive hours off-duty. NOTE: Drivers in intrastate commerce violating the 12 or 15-hour limits shall be placed out-of-service for eight consecutive hours.
70-Hour Rule (37 TAC 4.12(b)(2))
A motor carrier must not permit or require a driver to drive after being on duty 70 total duty hours in seven days. A driver may restart a 7 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off-duty.
Implications for Driving Beyond the Hours of Service
Regulations Federal and state agencies ensure truck drivers comply with the hours-of-service regulations. If a trucker violates the law, the trucking company can receive a fine based on the misconduct.
If an accident occurs and involves a drowsy truck driver who violated the laws regarding hours-of-service regulations. In that case, the truck driver and the motor carrier may be responsible for negligence and its consequences. In this case, the person filing a lawsuit against the driver may be awarded compensation for any injuries based on the grounds of negligence.
If you’re injured in an accident, you must remain compliant with driving restrictions based on whether you drive within your state or outside the state lines. The laws also vary for drivers who haul cargo versus those who carry passengers. Therefore, the truck accident attorney you select for your case must know the laws that can help prove your case.
Contact The Houston Truck Accident Lawyers for Help
Drowsy Driving: Asleep at the Wheel (cdc.gov)
Drowsy Driving: Worse Than Drunk Driving? | U.S. News (usnews.com)