Understanding the Rules on How Many Hours a Trucker Can Drive

With around 130 million commercial trucks crisscrossing the nation’s roadways every year, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) have their hands full trying to create sensible regulations that keep roads as safe as possible.
The FMCSA issues the rules that govern the trucking industry, from drivers to trucking companies, to individual owners of 18-wheelers. Of all the rules on the books, the hours-of-service rules are some of the most important to keeping everyone safe. This post explains some of these rules and why they are so critical to preventing injuries and deaths on Texas roads.

Introduction to the FMCSA Hours-of-Service Rules

Hours-of-service limits are designed to keep fatigued truck drivers off the road. They govern when and for how long any commercial motor vehicle driver may drive.
First, what qualifies as a commercial motor vehicle? According the FMCSA’s Interstate Truck Driver’s Guide to Hours of Service (which this blog is based on), drivers have to follow the hours rules if they drive a truck that is involved in interstate commerce and:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more, including its load; or
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or gross combination weight rating (GCWR) of 10,001 pounds of more; or
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards.

Explaining the Maximum Hours Limits for Truck Drivers

Every commercial truck driver must follow several driving hours limits. Let’s briefly discuss them.

14-Hour Driving Window

Once a driver gets to work, he or she may drive up to 11 of the next 14 hours. Here’s an example: Doug gets to work at 6 a.m. He has until 8 p.m. to drive. This is his 14-hour window. In that 14-hour period, he can drive for up to 11 hours. He can do non-driving work after 8 p.m., but that’s it. After the 14 hours are up, he is required to take the next 10 consecutive hours off from driving.

11-Hour Driving Limit

As mentioned above, a driver may drive up to 11 hours during the 14-hour window. Drivers are allowed to drive up to 11 hours during the window, but only after they have had 10 consecutive off-duty hours.

Required Rest Breaks

Drivers must take a 30-minute break if they drive eight consecutive hours. So if a driver wants to get the maximum 11 hours in, she can drive eight hours straight, take a 30-minute break, then drive another three hours. There are several rather technical exceptions to the rest rules but, unfortunately, we don’t have room to explain them here.

Weekly Driving Limits

The weekly limits rules can also get quite technical, but generally they mean the following: Drivers can drive a maximum of 60 hours in any seven-day period, or 70 hours in any eight-day period.

Reducing Truck Wrecks

The hours limits from FMCSA are all about protecting everyone on the roadways from exhausted truck drivers. Most drivers comply with the rules, but occasionally they do not. When they stray from the rules, truck accidents happen, and innocent people are hurt.
If you or someone you love was injured or killed in a truck wreck in Texas, the lawyers at the Dallas law firm of Ted B. Lyon & Associates would like to help you recover compensation. Contact us anytime for a free initial consultation.