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Truck driver fatigue and hours of service

Trucking accident trials often revolve around Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and evidence of how they were violated. Some of the regulations often referred to in cases where tired truckers wreck include the following:

49 C.F.R. § 392.3, Driver Impairment.

No driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle, and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle, while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle.

FMCSR, 49 C.F.R. § 390.11 Motor carrier to require observance of driver regulations.

Whenever … a duty is prescribed for a driver or a prohibition is imposed upon the driver, it shall be the duty of the motor carrier to require observance of such duty or prohibition. If the motor carrier is a driver, the driver shall likewise be bound.

FMCSR, 49 C.F.R. § 390.13, provides that

“No person shall aid, abet, encourage, or require a motor carrier or its employees to violate the rules of this chapter.”

It does not say “no motor carrier.” A company owner who makes irresponsible dispatching decisions may become an individual defendant.

FMCSR, 49 CFR 390.5 defines “person” as follows:

Person means any individual, partnership, association, corporation, business trust, or any other organized group of individuals.

FMCSR, 49 CFR § 395.3 Maximum driving time for property-carrying vehicles.

Subject to the exceptions and exemptions in § 395.1:

(a) No motor carrier shall permit or require any driver used by it to drive a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle, nor shall any such driver drive a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle:

(1) More than 11 cumulative hours following 10 consecutive hours off duty; or (2) For any period after the end of the 14th hour after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty, except when a property-carrying driver complies with the provisions of § 395.1(o) or § 395.1(e)(2).
(b) No motor carrier shall permit or require a driver of a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle to drive, nor shall any driver drive a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle, regardless of the number of motor carriers using the driver’s services, for any period after-
(1) Having been on duty 60 hours in any period of 7 consecutive days if the employing motor carrier does not operate commercial motor vehicles every day of the week; or (2) Having been on duty 70 hours in any period of 8 consecutive days if the employing motor carrier operates commercial motor vehicles every day of the week.

FMCSR, 49 CFR § 395.8 Driver’s record of duty status.

(a) Except for a private motor carrier of passengers (nonbusiness), every motor carrier shall require every driver used by the motor carrier to record his/her duty status for each 24 hour period using the methods prescribed [herein]….
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(e) Failure to complete the record of duty activities of this section or § 395.15, failure to preserve a record of such duty activities, or making of false reports in connection with such duty activities shall make the driver and/or the carrier liable to prosecution.

Ken Shigley has served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute, co-sponsored by the Georgia, Tennesseem Alabama, and North Carolina Trial Lawyers Associations. He is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, and is a seminar speaker for the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. A Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Master of the Lamar Inn of Court at Emory Law School, and a faculty member for ten years at the Emory University Law School Trial Techniques Program, he was recently elected Secretary of the 39,000 member State Bar of Georgia. He handles tractor trailer crash cases all over Georgia, from Blue Ridge to Bainbridge, and from Tallapoosa to Thomson.