The amount of time that commercial vehicle drivers in West Virginia and around the country can spend behind the wheel is strictly controlled by federal hours of service rules. However, trade groups such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association have branded the regulations burdensome and overly restrictive. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration appears to have taken these criticisms seriously as it published a series of proposed hours of service revisions on Aug. 23 in the Federal Register.
The revisions would bring the hours of service requirements for short-haul truck drivers into line with the regulations covering long-haul drivers and allow the 14-hour maximum shift to be increased by two hours during periods of adverse weather. The proposals also call for revisions to the rule requiring truck drivers to take a mandatory 30-minute break after eight hours behind the wheel.
The regulations currently require truck drivers to rest for at least 10 hours between their shifts. However, the proposed changes would allow truck drivers operating commercial vehicles equipped with sleeper cabs to break this mandatory downtime up into multiple rest periods. The FMCSA is also considering allowing all commercial vehicle operators covered by the rules to take several rest periods of three hours or longer instead of a single 10-hour break. Interested parties and members of the public have until Sept. 24 to submit comments about the proposed hours of service changes.
In addition to setting rules designed to prevent accidents caused by driver fatigue, federal trucking regulations also establish standards for commercial vehicle safety systems. When pursuing litigation on behalf of a truck accident victim, a personal injury attorney may check official records to find out if the truck driver or logistics company involved violated these regulations in the past. A record of safety citations could lead to a larger settlement for a plaintiff.