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Department Of Transportation Regulations For Truck Drivers

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The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has established a wide set of rules and regulations for commercial truck drivers and companies to follow to ensure the safety of all motorists. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is responsible for enforcing DOT rules. When DOT regulations for truck drivers are not adhered to, the likelihood of accidents increases. If you were hurt in a truck accident caused by a truck driver or company not following DOT rules, consider contacting Steelman Gaunt Crowley at (573) 341-8336 for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights with an experienced truck accident lawyer.

What Is the DOT Rule?

There are many Department of Transportation rules, but when people ask, “What is the DOT rule?”, they are typically referring to the hours-of-service regulations. These rules — which set limits on the number of hours that truck drivers can work in a day and when they must take breaks — are intended to help prevent accidents caused by fatigued driving. The rules apply to commercial motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or more, including property-carrying and passenger-carrying drivers. The FMCSA enforces these rules.

Some of the most important guidelines in these rules include:

  • Property-carrying commercial truck drivers cannot drive more than 14 consecutive hours after they are on duty.
  • Passenger-carrying drivers are not allowed to drive more than 15 hours.
  • After reaching the 14- or 15-hour limit, drivers must take 10 consecutive hours off duty before they can drive again.
  • Property-carrying commercial truck drivers are allowed to drive up to 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty within 14 hours.
  • Passenger-carrying commercial truck drivers are allowed to drive up to 10 hours after eight consecutive hours off duty.
  • Commercial truck drivers cannot log driving time after eight hours of driving unless and until they take a 30-minute off-duty break.
  • Commercial truck drivers who do not drive every day of the week are not permitted to drive after 60 on-duty hours within a seven-day period.
  • Commercial truck drivers who do drive every day of the week are not permitted to drive after 70 on-duty hours within an eight-day period.
  • Commercial truck drivers can restart the seven- or eight-day period after they take 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

What Is the 14-Hour Rule for FMCSA?

Commercial truck drivers cannot drive more than 14 consecutive hours after they have come on duty. Before working a 14-hour shift, a driver must be off duty for 10 hours straight. This time begins when the driver begins any type of work, not just driving.

An example of the 14-hour rule: You start work at 6 a.m. You cannot drive your truck after 8 p.m., and you must refrain from driving until at least 6 a.m.

How Does the DOT 16-Hour Rule Work?

Not all drivers are subject to the 14-hour rule. For example, if there is a short-haul exception, a driver may be able to work 16 consecutive hours before he or she is required to take a break. This exception is only permitted for two days in a seven-day consecutive period or after 34 hours from restarting the period.

The FMCSA short-haul exception can only apply if the driver operates a truck that is considered a commercial motor vehicle but that does not require a commercial driver’s license, and if the driver works within a 150-air-mile radius of the location where he or she reports to work and returns daily.

How Does The 7/3 Split Work?

Drivers can extend the 14-hour limit if they use a sleeper berth for seven hours, three hours off duty; or for eight hours, two hours off duty.

Other DOT Rules

The hours-of-service rules are just one element of the DOT rules. DOT also has rules regarding licensing requirements, properly tying down materials, and the safe operation of vehicles. Other important rules include:

Drug and Alcohol Testing

Commercial truck drivers may be required to receive a negative result for drug and alcohol testing at the following times:

  • Before they are hired.
  • After an accident.
  • At random intervals.
  • Upon reasonable suspicion of impairment.
  • When they return to duty after testing positive, refusing a drug test, or violating an FMCSA drug and alcohol rule.

Maintenance, Repair, and Inspection Requirements

The FMCSA has a variety of requirements regarding the maintenance, repair, and inspection of commercial motor vehicles, including:

  • Trucks must be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained.
  • All parts and accessories must always be in safe and proper working condition.
  • Push-out windows, emergency doors, and emergency door marking lights must be inspected at least every three months.
  • Trucking companies must maintain required records.
  • Drivers must complete a daily post-trip inspection report.
  • Inspection reports must list any defects or deficiencies.
  • Trucking companies must certify that they have repaired any listed defect or deficiency.
  • Before allowing a driver to operate a vehicle, the trucking company must repair any defect or deficiency listed on the inspection report that would be likely to affect the vehicle’s safe operation.
  • All commercial vehicles must be inspected at least annually.

Hazardous Materials Regulations

The DOT also has special rules pertaining to hazardous materials. These rules are specific to the type of materials that are being handled.

What Happens If DOT Rules Are Violated?

These DOT regulations for truck drivers and trucking companies are an important safeguard. They are intended to protect other motorists from commercial vehicles that weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds. If a truck driver or a company that hires a driver violates DOT rules and this violation contributes to an accident, they may be responsible for the damages they cause. An experienced truck accident lawyer with Steelman Gaunt Crowley may be able to represent you in a claim against the negligent party or parties.

Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer for Help

If you were injured in a truck accident you believe was caused by a violation of DOT regulations for truck drivers, an experienced Rolla, MO trucking accident attorney at Steelman Gaunt Crowley may be able to help. Call (573) 341-8336 for a free, no-obligation case consultation with an experienced truck accident lawyer. Consider contacting us today to learn about your legal rights and options.