New hours-of-service regulations for truckers go into effect July 1

Changes in the federal regulations governing hours-of-service for interstate truckers are due to be enforced beginning July 1, 2013. On that date, both carriers and drivers must comply with the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's on-duty requirements that are designed to combat truck driver fatigue.

The most significant change limits drivers to one 34-hour restart per week, and requires that every restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods. In view of these changes, the maximum number of hours that a driver can work in one week has been cut from 82 to 70.

In addition, if a driver has not taken at least a 30-minute break by the end of his or her eighth consecutive hour of driving (including any breaks of less than 30 minutes and any other work), the driver must stop for a 30-minute break before driving again. A lunch break or time resting in the truck's sleeper berth will ordinarily satisfy this requirement. If a driver will be working but not driving after eight hours, no break is required.

Carriers can be penalized for egregious violations

The new rules also prescribe penalties for carriers that permit drivers to violate the hours-of-service regulations "egregiously." "Egregious" is defined as allowing a driver to drive more than three hours beyond the limit.

An example of an "egregious violation" is provided by a Chicago Sun Times story about a Wisconsin truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel after working more than 14 hours. This led to a fiery crash on the Tri-State Tollway that resulted in the death of an Illinois State Trooper.

Truckers challenge new rules

The American Trucking Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association are challenging the new rules in court. A federal appeals court is due to issue a decision in the case any day now, although it may not happen before July 1.

Drivers from Canada and Mexico who cross the border into the United States on or after July 1 will also have to comply with the new hour-of-service regulations, just like any U.S. driver.

Wisconsin enforcement

Wisconsin has adopted and enforces the federal hours-of-service regulations for interstate truckers. In addition, Wisconsin has adopted a separate set of hour-of-service regulations for intrastate truckers who drive vehicles with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, transport hazardous materials, or carry 16 or more passengers including the driver.

If you are injured or lose a loved one in an accident with a truck, including a truck driven by a fatigued or drowsy driver, you should contact an experienced truck accident attorney who can adequately investigate the cause of the accident and obtain full and fair compensation for your injuries or loss.