Texas commerce relies heavily on the trucking industry. Semi-trailer trucks, often called “big- rigs,” are used to transport oil from the well-head to the refinery, and more trucks are used to transport a variety of petroleum products to distributors. Over-the-road transportation is also essential to moving cargo from Texas’ several busy seaports to inland destinations. Driving a big rig can be very fatiguing, and limiting the time a driver spends behind the wheel is a major focus of the state’s and the federal government’s safety regulations.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency in the Department of Transportation, has promulgated rules that limit the hours that a driver can work in both a single day and single week. The regulations differ for different classes of drivers. For example, drivers who operate trucks in the same state are subject to state regulations but not federal regulations.
In Texas, a work week is limited to 7 consecutive days. A driver may work no more than 60 hours over 7 consecutive days or 70 hours over 8 consecutive days. Drivers may be on duty for 14 hours following 10 hours off duty.
Drivers operating under federal rules cannot work more than 70 hours in an 8-day period or 5 days in a 70 hour period. A driver cannot work again until he or she drops below 70 hours worked in an 8-day period.
How these rules affect you
The owners of truck companies make more money the longer that their drivers are moving with cargo. The owners’ push for more operating hours often leads to accidents caused by fatigued drivers operating longer than state or federal rules allow. Anyone who has been injured or lost loved one in an accident with a big rig may wish to investigate the possibility that the driver (or his employer) has stretched the operating time limits for the driver. The advice of an attorney experienced in truck accidents is often able to evaluate the evidence, spot evidence of time limit violations, and provide an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.