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Trucker rolls his truck after violating the FMCSA “14-hour-rule”

Written by Steve Gursten Posted March 22nd, 2013

Truck driver lucky to be alive as he “blacked out” after being on duty, breaking the 14-hour rule

rolled truck

I came across a troubling story earlier today.  Sadly, as lawyers who have handled way too many preventable truck accident injury cases involving truckers driving far beyond safe hours of service rules, this scenario is also all too familiar to us.  A truck driver was recently operating his commercial vehicle when he allegedly “blacked out.”  Inevitably, while the driver was incapacitated, the truck veered off the shoulder of the road, exited the highway, and rolled over.

Here’s the full story from Driver “blacks out,” rolls truck on I-57.

Thankfully, the driver was lucky enough to be alive following the crash.  He was transported to hospital for treatment.  It is truly a miracle that no one else was injured or killed in this crash.

But what makes this story so troubling?  Following the crash the driver was issued several tickets, including a ticket for violating the “14-hour rule.”

The “14-hour-rule” is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Hours of Service regulation.  The regulation prohibits a driver from operating his commercial vehicle beyond 14 hours after reporting for duty.  The regulation reads:

“Property-carrying [commercial motor vehicle] drivers…may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. Off-duty time does not extend the 14-hour period.”

So, for example, if a driver begins work at 6:00 a.m., he may not legally drive his truck beyond 8:00 p.m. that evening; regardless of breaks or down time.

Suddenly this accident looks less like a trucker blacking out, and more like a person who broke the law and fell asleep behind the wheel after exhausting himself.

The rationale behind this rule is obvious.  A 14-hour work day is a very long day.  After 14 hours, anybody would be tired and susceptible to making mistakes. By limiting the hours of service, the FMCSA has attempted to get tired drivers off of the road before something like this happens.

Had this truck driver followed the rules, this accident would not have occurred.  If he had stopped driving his vehicle, as he was required to do by law, he would have been off of the road and (presumably) getting some rest. Instead, this man consciously broke the law, created an extremely dangerous situation for everyone on the highway, and landed himself in the hospital.

These are the worst kinds of truck accidents; the kind that are entirely preventable.  FMCSA regulations exist for a reason.  The rules are calculated and designed to promote safety on our roads. They are in place to protect all drivers – including truckers who are bound by those same rules.

Breaking the 14-hour-rule is never okay.  It is never excusable.  Something we emphasize on this blog is being responsible, and not cutting corners on safety.  Regulations may be in place, but they are meaningless if commercial drivers just ignore them, like this driver.

A side note: As lawyers who have written extensively about commercial vehicle safety issues, we support the FMCSA hours of service rule should not allow any more than at least 11 hours on the road.   Founding Truck Accident Roundtable Attorney Michael Leizerman is currently serving as the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Litigation Group’s Public Affairs and Safety Chair. He has written extensively about how this rule protects both drivers and the innocent public on our roads.

Related information:

3 reasons truck drivers continue to drive fatigued

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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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