There are many rules that Texas truck drivers must follow. These include speed limits, stop lights and signs, work equipment, signaling turns, yielding in the appropriate circumstances, being in the correct lane, and many others. These rules are designed to keep drivers safe. Another big factor in keeping the roads safe is ensuring drivers pay attention to the road and are alert. That is why people are not supposed to drive if they are drinking or too tired. So, how many hours can a truck driver drive a day in Texas?
If a truck driver exceeds their hours of service and causes an accident, they could be held liable for the victim’s medical bills and other damages. If a trucking company pressures its drivers into exceeding those hours to meet deadlines, it may also be held liable. Victims of Houston trucking accidents deserve compensation for their injuries. Contact a Houston truck accident lawyer at Reich & Binstock by calling 713-622-7271. Schedule your free case evaluation today.
What Are Federal Hours of Service (HoS) Regulations?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets governmental regulations regarding how many hours a truck driver can drive in one day. These regulations specifically outline the total amount of driving time, plus the number and length of driving breaks. Below, we outline the different rules that commercial truck drivers must follow.
Drivers of commercial motor vehicles have both daily limits and weekly limits on their driving time. If carriers do not operate daily, they cannot drive after they have clocked 60 hours of on-duty time in a seven-day period. If carriers do operate daily, they cannot drive after they have clocked 70 hours on duty in an eight-day period. The seven or eight days distinction depends on whether the carrier operates daily. This limit resets after a 34-hour restart.
After truck drivers drive the 60/70 hour limit, they must take 34 consecutive hours off duty time. This will reset the 60/70-hour limit. Once the commercial motor vehicle driver has 34 consecutive hours off duty, they can resume driving within the daily limits. This process will repeat each time they reach 60 or 70 hours, depending on how often the carriers operate.
Truckers may not exceed 14 on-duty hours since their last 10-hour break. Once 14 hours on duty have elapsed, they may not drive again until they take a 10-hour break. Even if a trucker were to take a break or nap during that 14 hours, it still counts as part of the 14-hour shift limit.
Truck drivers may not drive for more than 11 hours within 24 hours. This 11-hour rule applies within the 14-hour shift limit mentioned above. The driver can have 11 total hours of driving time at any time during the 14-hour shift limit. Truck drivers must not exceed 11 hours of driving before they have a 10-hour rest period.
10-Hour Rest Break Rule
Truckers are required to take a 10-hour rest break following 14 hours on duty. Before they can resume driving, they must have 10 consecutive rest hours. This helps to prevent fatigue behind the wheel of very big, very dangerous vehicles.
Split Sleeper Berth Rule
Oftentimes, truckers deal with backups and long wait times at loading docks. To mitigate this, truckers abide by the split sleeper berth rule. This rule allows drivers to split their 10-hour off-duty period into shifts. This shift can be split either 8/2 or 7/3.
In an 8/2 split, the eight hours must be spent in the sleeper berth, while the remaining two hours can be spent however the trucker wants. They just need to be off duty.
In a 7/3 split, the sleeper berth period can be as short as seven hours. However, the other shift has to be no shorter than three hours. Remember that the 14-hour clock cannot be reset by either of those split sleeper berth shifts. The 14-hour rule can only be reset by taking 10 hours off duty.
What Are Record of Duty Statuses (RODs)?
The Record of Duty Status (ROD) system tracks the number of hours that a driver spends on the road. The FMCSA requires these records in their Hours of Service regulations to promote safety on the road and prevent driver fatigue.
These logs record information about the following.
- How much time a driver spends on the road
- Number of hours spent driving
- Number of hours spent resting or doing other non-driving activities
The FMCSA and trucking companies use these logs to ensure that drivers are not exceeding the maximum hours allowable by law. This also prevents driver fatigue.
Why Did the FMCSA Create Driving Hour Limits?
The first HoS rules emerged in the 1930s to do two things: bring stability to the trucking industry and protect drivers from demanding employers. The first rules were put in place in 1935, then amended in 1962. For nearly the next 60 years, those rules remained mostly the same.
In 1995, Congress asked the Department of Transportation to establish new rules. The new rules were finalized and published in 2003. Since then, there have been no significant changes to the HoS rules.
What Types of Vehicles Must Adhere to FMCSA Time Regulations?
These regulations apply to any driver who operates a commercial motor vehicle in the United States. Even if a driver comes from Canada or Mexico, they must adhere to those rules while driving in the United States.
If a commercial motor vehicle meets one of the following conditions, the driver must adhere to HoS rules.
- Gross combination weight rating of over 10,000 lbs
- Transportation of hazardous materials that require a placard on the vehicle
- Passenger-carrying drivers who transport 16 or more people, including the driver
- Passenger-carrying drivers who transport 9 or more people for pay, including the driver
The above criteria apply to any vehicle that meets one of the above conditions, regardless of whether or not it carries a load.
Exceptions to Hours of Service Rules
As with many other regulations, there are exceptions to the FMCSA’s Hours of Service rules. We outline these exceptions in the following sections.
Adverse Driving Conditions Exception
If drivers run into bad weather, they can extend their driving hours and shift limit by up to two hours. To qualify for this exception, they must meet the following criteria.
- They did not know about the bad weather before they started driving.
- They could not have predicted or avoided the conditions by using common sense or planning their trip.
Once drivers max out their extended driving hours, they must pull over and wait for the weather to subside before continuing their trip safely.
150 Air-Mile Non-CDL Short-Haul Exception
Drivers without CDLs in short-haul positions have slightly different rules. They are not required to log their hours if they meet the following criteria.
- They do not drive any vehicles requiring a CDL.
- The drivers operate within 150 air miles of their company’s main location and report to that location at the end of every workday.
- They refrain from driving more than 14 hours after beginning their workday for five or more days in a seven-day period.
- They refrain from driving more than 16 hours after beginning their workday for two or more days in a seven-day period.
16-Hour Short-Haul Exception
Short-haul truck drivers can sometimes extend their daily 14-hour shift limit to 16 hours. To do this, they must meet all of the following criteria.
- The trucker starts and ends their shift at the same location for the day they use the exception, as well as for the previous 5 consecutive working days.
- They are off duty no later than 16 hours after their 10-hour rest period.
- They have not used this exception within the past 6 consecutive days, or they fully completed a 34-hour restart.
Do Truck Drivers Have to Comply With Hourly Limits?
In general, yes. There are some variations to hour limits depending on what kind of carrier the driver is. There are two types of carriers, according to the FMCSA: property-carrying drivers and passenger-carrying drivers.
Property-carrying vehicles must adhere to both the 14-hour limit and the 60/70 hour limit. These rules limit the number of on-duty hours and how many of those hours can be spent driving. Passenger-carrying vehicles have mostly the same rules, but they are slightly different.
Passenger carriers have a maximum daily limit of 15 hours per day with a driving limit of 10 hours per day. They can only do this after taking at least eight consecutive hours off duty. They must still comply with the 60/70 rule.
What Are the Penalties for Violating Hours of Service Regulations?
Although the regulations seem complicated at first, they are not difficult to follow. If drivers fail to adhere to the HoS regulations, they could face the following penalties.
- Forced roadside shutdown until they have accrued enough off-duty time to continue driving
- Civil penalties from the FMCSA for either the driver or the trucking company, ranging from $1,000 to $11,000
- Fines from state and local law enforcement
- Reductions in safety ratings if multiple violations have occurred
- Federal criminal penalties if drivers or trucking companies have willfully allowed or required violations of these rules
Why Is Following Hours of Service Rules So Important?
Hours of Service rules exist for a reason. Over time, countless studies have shown the connection between driver fatigue and accident prevalence. Mandatory rest hours and limited driving time help to reduce fatigue and lessen the chances of accidents.
There are many trucks on the roads every day. They are vital for commerce and for the driver’s livelihood as well. However, if they do not follow the regulations and cause accidents, the victims may suffer serious injuries.
These injuries can be life-changing in many situations. The victims may receive compensation from the truck driver and maybe even the trucking company if the driver is responsible for the accident. It is important to understand one’s rights to ensure they receive proper compensation.
How Many Hours Can a Truck Driver Drive a Day in Texas?
In Texas, truck driver fatigue is one of the main causes of trucking accidents. While passenger vehicle drivers can legally drive as many hours as they want daily, commercial drivers cannot. Intrastate Texas truck drivers must adhere to the FMCSA’s HoS regulations, meaning they must adhere to the following.
- 12 hours driving time followed by 8 hours straight off duty
- Maximum 70 hours worked or driven in a 7-day period
- 34 off-duty hours before restarting their 70-hour weekly limit
- All other HoS regulations
Contact a Houston Truck Accident Attorney with Reich & Binstock Today
If you were injured in a truck accident in Houston, the Houston truck accident lawyers at Reich & Binstock are here to help you fight for full and fair compensation. With decades of experience on our side, we have what it takes to go up against big truck companies. Because of truck driver negligence, you likely have a mountain of medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. Contact a Houston personal injury lawyer with our Houston law firm to schedule a free consultation about your case. Call 713-622-7271 today or fill out our online intake form.