Commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded with cargo. Because of their weight, the damage that large trucks cause to vehicles and occupants of tiny 1.5-ton passenger vehicles can be catastrophic. That makes trucker safety, including getting ample sleep before a shift, vital.
One common cause of commercial truck accidents is hours-of-service (HOS) violations. Truck drivers spend long hours behind the wheel. They work on tight deadlines, and some trucking companies pressure them to violate hours-of-service regulations to make quicker deliveries and increase profits. Hours-of-service regulations are intended to help prevent driver fatigue. When truck drivers ignore them, devastating accidents can occur.
If you were involved in a truck accident caused by a fatigued driver, you could be entitled to compensation to cover the costs of related medical expenses, lost wages, vehicle damage, and your pain and suffering. At Loewy Law Firm, we can help you get it.
Investigating truck accidents can be complex because of deep-pocketed trucking companies and insurers, so it’s imperative to choose a seasoned Austin truck accident attorney. If you were the victim of a truck accident in the Austin area, don’t wait to contact Loewy Law Firm for a free initial consultation today.
What Are Hours-of-Service Regulations?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established hours-of-service regulations to restrict the number of hours that truck drivers may work each day. Driver fatigue is a frequent cause of dangerous truck accidents, which these regulations aim to combat. They include:
- Commercial truck drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours per day.
- Commercial truck drivers may work no more than 14 hours per shift, including breaks.
- Commercial truck drivers may not work more than 8 hours without taking a 30-minute break.
- Commercial truck drivers must take 10 hours off between shifts.
- Commercial truck drivers may work a maximum of 60 hours in a consecutive 7-day period or 70 hours in a consecutive 8-day period.
- Commercial truck drivers driving in hazardous traffic conditions, such as bad weather, may drive for two extra hours past the typical 11-hour work-day and the 14-hour shift.
Responsibility of Truck Drivers
Truck drivers must abide by the FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations. Some truck drivers exceed these limits to meet tight deadlines. In fact, some drivers have reason to believe that if they don’t make their deliveries on time, they’ll lose their jobs.
Failing to abide by hours-of-service regulations can easily result in driver fatigue, which is a frequent cause of truck collisions. Truck drivers can become drowsy after spending too many hours behind the wheel without taking a break. When that happens, they lose the ability to focus on the road and have slower reactions to road hazards and obstructions.
Drowsy truck drivers may veer into another lane or crash into a passenger vehicle, resulting in devastating injuries. The core goal of the FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations is to prevent driver fatigue. Drivers who ignore the regulations can be held responsible when they cause an accident.
Responsibility of Trucking Companies
Trucking companies also have a responsibility to abide by hours-of-service regulations. Specifically, they may not pressure their drivers to exceed the legally allowed work hours to increase profits. Unfortunately, many trucking companies pressure their drivers to ignore HOS regulations to make more deliveries.
The trucking company may not explicitly direct their drivers to do this but may instead indirectly pressure them to violate the law. By doing this, trucking companies put other motorists, not to mention their drivers, in great danger.
If an investigation finds that a trucking company pressured a driver to exceed hours-of-service limits, the company could be legally responsible for collisions that occur as a result.
Collisions Caused by Hours-of-Service Violations
According to FMCSA data, there were 4,630 fatal crashes involving large trucks or buses in 2018. Truck accidents are incredibly dangerous to drivers and other occupants of passenger vehicles due to the size, weight, and forward momentum of large commercial trucks.
Some of the common types of truck crashes caused by hours-of-service violations include:
- Head-on collisions
- Rear-end collisions
- Side-impact collisions
- Underride accidents
- Jackknife accidents
- Rollover accidents
How Do I Prove an Hours-of-Service Violation?
Most truck accidents are caused by the truck driver or trucking company negligence. Occasionally, other parties such as the cargo loaders or maintenance companies cause truck accidents. But when a fatigued driver negligently causes a collision, the driver and their employer are most likely at fault.
It can be challenging to prove that a truck driver (and/or trucking company) violated the hours-of-service regulations. While trucking companies require drivers to keep records of their work hours, these documents could be falsified to avoid liability for a driver’s violation of the hours-of-service regulations. That’s why it’s critical to consult with a truck accident attorney right away.
Your attorney will collect evidence to help prove your case, such as:
- Logbooks – Commercial truck drivers manually record their work hours in a logbook.
- Electronic records – Electronic records may be more reliable evidence than logbooks. Commercial trucks manufactured after 2000 have an electronic system that records the driver’s time on the road.
- Cell phone data – Outgoing calls and texts, as well as location data, could potentially be used to show that a driver violated hours-of-service regulations.
- Receipts – Your attorney can use gas station and fast-food restaurant receipts, tollbooth receipts, weigh station records, and more to document the driver’s shift, which could reveal an hours-of-service violation.
- Inspection records – Pre- and post-inspection records may help your attorney reconstruct the driver’s timeline and provide proof of their hours-of-service violations.
In some cases, both the truck driver and the trucking company are responsible for the accident. Determining liability in truck accidents can be complex, so working with a skilled attorney is crucial. We can help you demand full and fair compensation for your crash.
Compensation for Truck Accidents Caused by Hours-of-Service Violations
If you were injured in a commercial truck accident, you could be entitled to compensation from the at-fault party or parties. Compensation can cover economic and non-economic losses caused by the crash, including:
- Related medical expenses
- Lost income
- Vehicle damage
- Pain and suffering
Contact an Austin Truck Accident Lawyer Today
If you are the victim of a truck accident in the Austin area, don’t hesitate to contact the experienced Austin truck accident attorneys at the Loewy Law Firm today. We’re ready to conduct a full investigation of the accident, identify the at-fault parties, and aggressively pursue the compensation you need and deserve. Contact us right away for a free consultation.