In Fairfax County, Virginia around 6 a.m. exactly on the ides of March, company truck driver Bobby Blevins Jr. was electrocuted to death when his truck came into contact with power lines.
Bobby Blevins Jr. isn’t an amateur truck driver. He had been working for his trucking company for over a decade. He’s not a young, hot-blooded truck driver either – he’s a stable family man at 47 years old. His friends and family describe him as being caring, kind, and a giver rather than a taker. He’s notably known for selling his motorcycle to help pay for a patient’s therapy without ever having met them. He’s both a loving father and grandfather.
This is a sad, but serious example of how significant sleep deprivation and exhaustion can make the most experienced of truck drivers make scary mistakes with dangerous consequences. Truck accident attorneys often remind their clients to abide by the industry regulations regarding rest and work for truck drivers to avoid these kinds of foreseeable dangers.
A Truck Accident Attorney Would Tell You to Tell Your Boss “No” If He Makes You Work Past the Mandated Hours of Service (HOS)
The truck driving life isn’t in an ideal bubble. Receiving ends have closing times, shipping emergencies happen that cause radical change in routes, truck drivers don’t show up to a time-sensitive job, and many other situations that can make your employer ask you to work overtime to fill in the gaps and reach your destination before the gate closes. He’ll promise you higher pay or a first pick priority when it comes to the next valuable haul. But if what he’s asking violates federal regulations, then a truck accident attorney would tell you to firmly decline.
Federal regulations have Hours of Service regulations (HOS) that most commercial vehicles engaging in interstate commerce must abide by. If you need a CDL to drive a vehicle, then it’s very likely a commercial vehicle. And if you’re driving it while on the job and you have to travel between two or more states, then you’re most likely engaging in interstate commerce.
Even if you’re driving an empty truck but just dropped off a shipment in another state a few hours ago, the federal HOS still applies to you. And if you’ve been engaging in interstate commerce, the federal HOS might still apply to you for a week or more even if you stay in-state from then on. But if you’re only driving interstate once in a while, the federal HOS might not apply to you. Even if the federal HOS doesn’t apply to you, your state’s laws most likely have very similar regulations.
The core of the federal HOS regulations is: You can only drive for 8 hours straight. You have to take a 30-minute break before you can drive for another 3 hours. But, you can only drive a maximum of 11 hours that resets when you go off-duty for 10 hours.
There are few exceptions to this 11-hour rule. Some are:
- If you travel within 115 miles of where you normally work, the 30-minute break is waived.
- If there are adverse conditions, like a snowstorm that causes massive traffic, you’re allowed to drive 2 hours more over the 11-hour limit. This doesn’t apply to normal traffic or foreseeable congestion on the road. (You can’t just get an extra two hours because you were stuck in rush hour traffic, for example.)
In addition to the 11-hour limit, you also have a 60-hour (or 70-hour) limit every 7 or 8 days. After working for 60 hours within 7 days, you have to stay off-duty for 24 hours. Or you can opt to cap your working to 70 hours within 8 days. If you want to reset the 7-day or 8-day calendar, you simply have to stay off-duty for 34 hours straight – by doing so, you can immediately start a new 7-day or 8-day cycle. (Meaning, if you worked only 30 hours two days ago, you can now work 60 or 70 more hours for the next 7 or 8 days because of the reset.)
It’s important to note that the 60-hour and 70-hour limits don’t apply to just truck driving! Any time spent with on-the-job duties count – like prepping, servicing, loading, and offloading the truck or even doing on-the-job paperwork and drug testing.
So, keep in mind there’s the daily 11-hour limit and the weekly 60- or 70-hour limit. The good news is that traveling to get to work doesn’t count toward any of these time limits. That includes driving to get to the company truck.
Why Following Your Federal or State HOS Is Important
A truck accident attorney would tell you that if your employer directly tells you to ignore the HOS because of some last-minute shipping necessity, you may also be liable if you get into a truck accident. You’ve been trained about HOS regulations, which means actively not following them puts you at fault. Instead of your employer being the only entity at fault, you may have to pay compensation out-of-pocket too.
Also, if a police officer pulls you over and finds you’re in violation of HOS regulations, he can give you a hefty ticket that your employer certainly won’t reimburse you for. Depending on other factors, that citation could also cost you a CDL suspension. Would you really risk losing income during the suspension just to work a few lucrative overtime hours?
Remember that these HOS regulations were enacted because driving exhausted really increases your likelihood of getting into a dangerous accident – and a truck accident is far more dangerous than an accident involving two cars. The government isn’t trying to keep you from earning money – they’re trying to keep you and others safe.