Hours-of-Service Rules are Intended to Keep All Safe

For the most part, the government doesn't make rules, regulations or laws just to feel useful. They usually have specific reasons for doing so. One such reason is safety: safety of workers, safety of the general public, etc.

The commercial driving industry abides by rules and regulations, many of which are safety-related. For instance, truck and bus drivers may be limited in the number of hours they can drive, how much weight or the number of passengers they can carry per load, and, like all drivers, how fast they can drive. While these rules and regulations may seem like burdens on commercial enterprise, they are aimed at keeping drivers, passengers and others on the road safe.

What May Happen if Rules are Not Followed

While bus accidents are not the inevitable outcome of violating rules or regulations, the odds of an accident increase if safety rules are not followed. Take, for instance, the recent tragic bus that crashed while making an early-morning return trip from a casino in Connecticut to Chinatown in New York City. The bus overturned killing 15 of its 32 passengers and critically injuring several others.

While the cause of the bus accident is in dispute - the driver claims that he was forced to swerve to miss a truck and passengers claim that the driver's had been driving erratically prior to the accident occurring - one thing is certain, the driver was failing to follow federal regulations.

Investigators found that the driver had a poor driving record and an incomplete log book, according to the Associated Press. Drivers are required to keep a log of hours worked to prove that they are in compliance with federal regulations concerning the number of hours behind the wheel within in a given period of time.

Further, a look into the company that owned the bus showed that the log book issue was greater than just with the driver involved in this particular crash. According to the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles, five out of eight random checks of the company's buses showed issues with log books, from missing to falsified information.

While failing to log hours may seem trivial, this failure may be an indication that the driver is not following other rules, including limitations on hours of service.

Hours-of-Service Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration creates and enforces hours-of-service and other rules relating to drivers of semi-trucks, buses and other large vehicles that carry passengers or cargo, while engaging in interstate commerce.

Safety is the main concern addressed by hours-of-service restrictions. Fatigued drivers are a danger to themselves, their passengers and others on the road. Hours-of-service restrictions are designed to keep these drivers off of the road by placing limitations on "when and how long" they can drive, according to the FMCSA.

The FMCSA has established three main rules that a commercial driver must follow. All three deal with limits on duty and/or driving hours worked:

  • On-Duty Limit. After 15 hours on duty, a driver is not allowed to drive until eight consecutive hours of off-duty time is taken; however, the driver may continue to conduct other non-driving work. On-duty time is defined as: driving time; time spent at a bus station, terminal or other facility for the motor carrier or passenger; all time spent within the bus, unless that time is spent in a sleeping berth; all time spent loading or unloading passengers; all time spent handling paper work relating to trips; and other activities defined by the FMCSA.
  • Driving Limit. A bus driver is only allowed to drive a total of 10 hours after eight consecutive hours off duty. After the 10 hours of driving time has been used, the driver is not allowed to drive again until another eight hours off duty. The driving limit can be used consecutively in one long drive, or broken up over the course of a 15 hour shift.
  • Weekly Limit. The FMCSA rules refer to this as the 60/70 rule. This refers to the number of hours that a driver is allowed to drive in any given seven or eight-day period. This is not a set week, but rather a rolling week. Once the rolling-week has run, the hours driven during the first day drop from calculation; however, the hours driven in days two through the new day are still used in the calculation.

Proposed Rules

In December 2010, the Department of Transportation proposed new rules amending the hours that a driver is allowed to work, further limiting the number of hours that a driver is allowed to drive and further defining off-duty time. These proposed rules will further improve the safety of the driver, passengers and all others on the road.

We put our trust and lives in the hands of bus drivers and the companies that they work for. If a driver or company is not following the rules set forth, rules that are intended to keep you safe, and you are injured, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your situation.