Drowsy driving is a major cause of truck accidents and other commercial vehicle accidents. In fact, drowsy driving accidents are far more likely to cause fatalities than other accidents, for obvious reasons. 

When a truck driver falls asleep at the wheel, a road accident and an eventual wrongful death claim become extremely likely. In response to this danger, both federal and state governments now regulate how much sleep truck drivers must get before they can drive. 

Drowsy Driving Statistics

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated over 300,000 drowsy driving crashes happen every year. Only about 100,000 accidents appear in police reports, however. 

The same study found that over 100,000 drowsy driving accidents resulted in injury, and about 6,400 involved a fatality. Truly, drowsy driving comes at a tremendous cost.

Regulatory Restrictions

Federal trucking regulations set the maximum hours of service (HOS) for commercial truck drivers to ensure road safety on the roads. These regulations are enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). They include the following restrictions:

  • The 11-Hour Rule:
    • A truck driver can drive for up to 11 hours following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
    • This rule determines the maximum amount of time a driver can actively drive.
    • The purpose of this rule is to limit actual driving time to prevent fatigue. Once a driver has driven for 11 hours, they must take a break for at least 10 consecutive hours before driving again.
  • 14-Hour Rule:
    • This rule states that a truck driver cannot drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
    • This 14-hour window includes not just driving time, but all on-duty time. This means any time spent doing work-related activities (like loading or unloading cargo, fueling, inspecting the truck, and more) counts towards the 14 hours.
    • The 14-hour period does not stop or pause. Once a driver starts their day, they have a continuous 14-hour window in which they can conduct all work-related activities, including up to 11 hours of driving.
    • This rule is designed to limit the total workday, ensuring drivers have an opportunity to rest after a standard workday.
  • Rest breaks: Drivers must take a 30-minute break after they drive for eight cumulative hours without at least a 30-minute interruption.
  • The 60/70-hour limit: This limit is based on a 7-day or 8-day period. A driver cannot drive after 60 hours on duty on 7 consecutive days or 70 hours on 8 consecutive days.
  • The 34-hour restart rule: Drivers can reset their 60/70-hour workweek clock by taking a 34-consecutive-hour off-duty period.
  • The sleeper berth provision: Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate two consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.
  • Adverse driving conditions: These regulations allow an extension of two hours of driving during adverse driving conditions. The 14-hour limit still applies, however.
  • Record of duty status (RODS): Drivers must keep track of their hours with a logbook or electronic logging device (ELD).

The Florida hours of service rules include many of the same restrictions. Talk to a lawyer if you are unsure, because the regulations work together in complex and sometimes unexpected ways.

How Drowsy Driving Causes Truck Accidents

A drowsy driver can become far more impaired than a drunk driver, with the following results:

  • Swaying between lanes;
  • Drifting off the road; or
  • Accelerating via unconscious pressure on the gas pedal.

Sleeping drivers can collide with metal or concrete medians, trees, or other vehicles. Jerking awake can also cause a crash by prompting the driver to overcorrect the steering wheel. Overcorrecting can cause a collision in the opposite lane or cause a deadly rollover accident.

Contact Truck Accident Lawyers of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers for Help Today

Truck accident claims often require extensive knowledge of trucking regulations. If your lawyer knows trucking regulations, however, that knowledge could be the key to winning your claim; proving a violation of a trucking regulation is perhaps the best way of proving negligence. 

Further, since truck drivers are so well-insured, it’s unlikely that the driver’s lack of financial resources will prevent you from collecting the full amount of your claim.

For more information, please contact the legal team of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers for a free initial consultation with a truck accident lawyer. We have four convenient locations in Florida: Clearwater, New Port Richey, and Tampa.

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – Clearwater Office
1811 N. Belcher Road, Suite I-1
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 787-2500

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – Congress Ave Office
2360 Congress Avenue
Clearwater, FL 33763
(727) 591-5610

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – Tampa Office
6601 Memorial Hwy Suite 202
Tampa, FL 33615
(813) 686-7588

Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers – New Port Richey Office
2515 Seven Springs Blvd.
New Port Richey, FL, 34655
(727) 815-8442