Truck drivers must drive many hours each day as part of their employment.
Drowsy and fatigued driving is a frequent contributing factor to motor vehicle accidents. When the drowsy driver is driving a massive, heavy vehicle, the damage can reach catastrophic levels.
Maximum on-duty hours
To help reduce the occurrences of drowsy driving in truck drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has established rules about how many hours a truck driver can drive before a mandatory rest period must occur. After a required 10 consecutive hours off-duty, truck drivers can drive a maximum of 11 hours on duty before another off-duty period must occur.
Mandatory break periods
While on duty, truck drivers must take a 30-minute rest period for every eight hours of driving. If there were shorter breaks during that eight hours that did not reach 30-minutes, a driver must still take a 30-minute break.
Limits regarding consecutive days
Drivers must go off-duty after driving 60 or 70 hours within a period of seven or eight consecutive days. After remaining off duty for at least 34 consecutive hours, drivers can start the next period of seven or eight days.
Exceptions to the rules
If the truck has a sleeper berth, the driver may opt to split their 10-hour off-duty period into two periods, as long as one of those periods is at least seven hours in the sleeper berth. If a truck driver encounters extreme weather conditions, their maximum driving time increases by two hours to allow the drivers to adjust to the poor driving conditions.
The purpose of the off-duty periods is to offer the drivers the chance to sleep so they can remain alert when they get back behind the wheel. Break periods allow for shorter rests.