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Omaha Truck Driver Fatigue Accident Lawyer

What Happens When Truckers Ignore Hours of Service Rules

Long-haul trucking is a tough industry that pushes drivers to their mental and physical limits to meet deadlines and maximize profits. However, the federal government enforces certain guidelines that restrict how many hours a trucker can be behind the wheel in a given period of time. These are called hours of service regulations (HOS). When trucking companies or individual drivers choose to ignore these regulations, not only do they put people on the road in danger, but they open themselves up to civil lawsuits brought by people injured by their dangerous negligence.

If you or a loved one has been hit by a fatigued truck driver, do not agree to or sign anything presented by the trucker’s insurance company without a lawyer to represent you. Trucking companies fight tooth and nail against admitting liability in accidents. Until all the facts are evaluated, you cannot say who was to blame or what violations of federal law might have occurred.

Call Bottlinger Law L.L.C. at (402) 505-8234 and tell us what happened. We can discuss your case, look at the options available to you, and help you figure out what to do next. If we need to contest the trucking company’s refusal to pay for the accident by filing an injury lawsuit and seeing it through to jury trial, then that’s what we’ll do.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s HOS Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for establishing the regulations that all trucking companies and their drivers must follow. They are also expected to perform regular inspections of driver logs and gather other information to ensure that regulations are upheld. They are also in charge of investigating any reports of violations. Hours of service regulations can change over time, usually based on new research into truckers’ ability to concentrate and the amount of time a person can safely operate a large machine like a truck without suffering ill effects and putting others in danger.

There are four basic HOS regulations issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, three of which are limits and one that requires rest breaks. These regulations are:

  • 11-Hour Driving Limit: Truckers may only drive a maximum of 11 hours after spending 10 consecutive hours off duty. Both numbers are very important, especially the amount of time that a truck driver must spend off duty to rest and recover from driving.
  • 14-Hour Limit: Truckers cannot work beyond a 14th hour after coming off 10 consecutive hours off duty. In other words, once a truck driver spends 10 hours off duty, he or she may go back to work for no more than 14 hours, including a maximum of 11 hours of driving time plus breaks and other non-driving tasks like loading and unloading, before another 10 hours of off-duty time is required.
  • 60/70-Hour Limit: A weekly limit on total driving hours. A trucker can drive no more than 60 hours in 7 consecutive days, or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days, before he or she has to take 34 hours off duty. This regulation, when combined with the hourly limits, places fairly strict rules on when a driver can drive, and forces companies to give their truckers time off to recover.
  • Rest Breaks: Truckers cannot go more than 8 hours without taking at least a 30-minute break. This break must be spent off duty or in a sleeper berth in the truck.

Truck drivers need to get away from the wheel for awhile and relax their eyes and mind from focusing on driving. Fatigued drivers are dangerous drivers, whom research has shown are almost as likely to cause crashes as drunk drivers. When a driver is operating an 80,000-pound 18-wheeler, he can do a lot more damage by falling asleep at the wheel.

The sad part is, many trucking companies encourage or ignore violations of the hours of service regulations in an attempt to get more goods shipped quickly for a bigger profit. This has a tangible cost to other drivers on the road, and is the reason we see so many fatigued driving truck accidents throughout the United States.

Filing a Civil Claim After a Fatigue-Related Truck Accident

Violating HOS regulations can open a truck driver up to losing his or her commercial driver's license, and can cause a trucking company to be penalized or fined by the government.

These violations are also seen as acts of negligence. The victims of trucking accidents can file civil lawsuits against the trucker and company. Proving these violations can be difficult, however, because trucking companies don’t volunteer to share their truckers’ logbooks with you. That is why you need an experienced Omaha truck accident lawyer to represent you against the powerful trucking companies. Call the legal team at Bottlinger Law L.L.C. at (402) 505-8234, and we can fight to protect your rights. Your consultation is free, and if we take your case, you pay no fees unless we win you a settlement or jury verdict. When truckers violate the law, they have to pay.

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