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FMCSA Regulations Part 1: Hours of Service

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enforces many standards and regulations for commercial motor vehicles (CMV). Part 395 concerns the hours of service of drivers, including maximum driving times, record of duty, and recording devices. This section outlines rules for the length of time and circumstances in which drivers may operate a CMV.

By understanding the FMCSA hours of service regulations and staying within the measures, CMV drivers may help to reduce health risks and fatigue which could endanger themselves and other drivers on the road. When facing or bringing forward an insurance claim or lawsuit involving a CMV, knowledge of FMCSA regulations may be the key to a powerful defense or a justifiable claim. In these situations, seek legal guidance from an experienced truck accident lawyer.

CMVs and New Hours of Service Provisions

The Hours of Service Final Rule, and additional provisions in 2013, established the following:

  • Daily driving limit.
  • Daily work limit.
  • Maximum average week limit.
  • Required break during a shift.
  • Required rest period after reaching maximum week limit.

The regulations for hours of service are mostly based on the category of the CMV. Depending on whether the CMV is a passenger-carrier or a property-carrier, the vehicle may be subject to very different standards. The first step in understanding the regulations for a particular CMV is determining its category.

CMVs are categorized based on several factors, including:

  • 10,001+ lbs. of gross vehicle weight rating or combination weight rating.
  • Designed to transport passengers, 9+ with compensation and 16+ without compensation.
  • Presence of hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards.

Property-Carrying Vehicle Regulations

CMVs carrying property such as commercial products or hazardous materials are subject to different regulations than CMVs carrying passengers. Generally, property-carrying vehicles have more options with shift breaks and maximum week limits. This works to maximize the ability of the CMV driver while attempting to minimize hazards that may arise from fatigue and exhaustion.

Hours of service rules for property-carrying vehicles include:

  • 11-hour driving limit after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 14-hour work limit after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 30-minute break required for 8 hours of work, either off duty or sleeper berth.
  • 60/70 hour limit on duty in 7/8 consecutive days.
  • Restart 7/8 consecutive day period after 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.
  • At least 8 consecutive hours in sleeper berth and an additional 2 consecutive hours separately.

With these rules in place, property-carrying CMVs may be in operation at a maximum of 168 hours from the beginning of a "restart." It is important to understand the ability to restart after a 34-hour rest in order to ensure you are not in violation of FMCSA regulations. Primarily, these rules are in place to ensure the safety of drivers on the road.

Passenger-Carrying Vehicle Regulations

Passenger-carrying CMVs are subject to similar measurements as property-carrying CMVs, but they have fewer options in terms of the ability to extend week limits and off duty time. This is for the safety of CMV drivers, as well as the passengers aboard. Hours of service regulations are present to maintain effective CMV service and minimize risk of injury for drivers and passengers alike.

Hours of service rules for passenger-carrying vehicles include:

  • 10-hour driving limit after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 15-hour work limit after 8 consecutive hours off duty.
  • At least 8 consecutive hours in sleeper berth.

Protecting the Health and Safety of Drivers on the Road

The number of crashes for cars and CMVs has been decreasing since the late 1970's. This is partly due to improved road design and vehicle design. FMCSA regulations on hours of service seek to target fatigue-related incidents as well as the health risks involved with the sedentary nature of CMV driving occupations.

For these reasons, it is important to know the FMCSA rules and how the hours of service regulations affect you. If you find yourself involved in a CMV-related accident, knowledge of these regulations may help protect you in a lawsuit. At Matiasic & Johnson LLP, our California trucking accident lawyers have recovered more than $12 million for our clients. An experienced legal team guiding you through your case may be the key to your claim's success.