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Truck Drivers: The Consequences of Violating the 14 Hour Rule

Truck drivers must abide by the so-called Hours of Service rules including the 14-hour rule for their own and other traffic participants’ safety. But what happens if a truck driver or a carrier decides to break the 14-hour rule?

What Is the 14-Hour Rule?

The 14-hour rule along with the 11-hour rule and a handful of others are the so-called hours of service rules set in place by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to prevent fatigued drivers from hitting the nation’s roads and causing accidents.

The 14-hour rule can only be understood by looking at the 11-hour rule, which states that a trucker is allowed to be on duty for a maximum of 11 hours within 24 hours. According to the 14-hour rule he must complete the 11-hour shift within a 14-hour window and get off-duty rest for 10 straight hours.

These two rules show how much time a truck driver may drive under U.S. law.

Starting September 29, 2020, truck drivers were given more flexibility when it comes to splitting the 10-hour rest period. They can now pause the 14-hour clock to get off duty rest, and if that off duty rest amounts to 10 consecutive hours, the 14-hour clock is reset altogether.

Why Are HOS Rules So Important?

The Hours of Service rules are critical for trucking drivers because they prevent overworked or fatigued drivers from hitting the nation’s roadways and causing catastrophic accidents. Before them, truckers were logging more than 80 hours every week with very little sleep and possibility to get rest breaks.

The Hours of Service rules were set in place to prevent fatigued drivers from putting other people’s and their own lives at risk since driver fatigue is one of the top causes of fatal trucking crashes.

Consequences of Violating the 14 Hour Rule

After switching from paper logs to digital logs, breaking the 14-hour rule is not easy since every truck is now equipped with an Electronic Logging Device (ELD). But drivers can still get around it if they really want.

Violating the 14-hour rule comes with some consequences including:

More drowsy drivers on the nation’s roads. By breaking HOS rules, more fatigued truckers will be found on the nation’s roads, which means that the number of trucking accidents can skyrocket. It is estimated that 13% of trucking accidents are caused by fatigued drivers, but that number may be much greater since truckers don’t like to admit fault because of the legal and moral consequences. A drowsy trucker may also be fired which is why it is very rare for him or her to admit to being engaged in drowsy driving before an ugly accident.

Trucking company’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) scores may be affected. If a truck driver breaks HOS rules, the carrier’s CSA score may be affected, which means that the company will be identified as high-risk over the next 24 months, which can be bad for business.

Driver or carrier might get fined. Truckers who break the 14-hour rule and other HOS rules might get fined thousands of dollars, and so do carriers that make it easier for drivers to avoid these safety rules. Federal criminal penalties may also be applied for serial violations including a complete shutdown of the trucking company.

Driver and/or carrier can be forced to offer higher compensation in case of a crash. If a truck driver was caught breaking the 14-hour rule, he or she or their employer is more likely to lose a lawsuit in civil court and pay hefty compensation to a trucking accident’s victims. Establishing fault and liability in a truck accident case is a quite straightforward process and every trucking accident attorney worth their salt can help victims win a case against a trucking company. This amounts to tens of thousands or even millions of dollars in compensation, which is every trucking company’s worst nightmare.

Conclusion

The 14-hour rule and other HOS rules are designed to keep truck drivers and other traffic participants safe and to reduce the risk of truck accidents and their consequences to a minimum. Breaking the 14-hour rule comes with serious consequences that can affect both the driver and the carrier including fines, penalties, and a complete shutdown of the business.


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