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Tip for lawyers: Does driving fatigued mean driving in excess of the hours of service rules?

Written by Steve Gursten Posted November 26th, 2014

Not always. Lawyers need to understand there’s a separate FMCSR §392.3, which prohibits truckers from driving fatigued regardless of HOS compliance

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Most lawyers know about the hours of service regulations, and that a truck driver may not violate them. If a truck driver violates the hours of service rules, he’s violating federal law.  And since these rules have been adopted in their entirety or with very few changes by the states, the trucker is violating state law as well.

The purpose of these rules is safety. It’s to protect the public by keeping fatigued truckers or bus drivers off the road. When truck drivers are fatigued, truck accidents, injuries and fatalities are far more likely to occur.

But does a trucker have to be in violation of the hours of service to be driving “fatigued”?

The answer is absolutely not. In fact, from a common sense standpoint, it doesn’t even make sense. A person can be fatigued, even though he is operating a semi-truck within the confines of the hours of service. Consider, for instance, a trucker who suffers from a serious sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.

Lawyers need to understand there is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR) that addresses this issue exactly: § 392.3. This important safety regulation states a truck driver shall not operate a commercial vehicle if said driver is fatigued.

So, fatigue does not just mean HOS violations.  The next time you’re litigating a serious truck accident case and a trucker or the trucking companies argues fatigue was not a factor because the driver was within his or her hours of service, the proper legal inquiry should turn to  § 392.3.

Remember, if the only way to be fatigued was to violate hours of service requirements, then this rule would not need to exist.

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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