A tired driver behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound truck places everyone on the road at risk. Truck driver fatigue is one of the most common causes of trucking accidents. Since drivers can spend hours behind the wheel, fatigue can set in quickly. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated that drowsiness is a factor in 56,000 accidents each year.
That means that fatigue causes a potentially life-changing crash about 153 times a day.
The 34-Hour Restart Rule Explained
To reduce the number of accidents caused by driver fatigue, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has an hours-of-service policy known as the 34-hour restart rule. Over the years, the rule has changed, and drivers might be confused about what it means.
Simply put, the 34-hour restart rule enables truckers to reset their workweek if they are approaching the limits for driving or being on duty. These hour limits are 70 in the last eight days or 60 in the last seven days.
If a driver is nearing their driving limits but will need to drive more in the next few days, they can use the 34-hour restart rule to reset their time. To do so, a driver needs to spend 34-hours in their sleeper berth, off duty, or a combination of both.
Why Does the 34-Hour Restart Rule Exist?
The rule exists to give trucking companies flexibility while ensuring that drivers are well-rested. When it created the rule, the FMCSA carried out studies that confirmed that 34 hours is the sweet spot for making sure drivers aren’t too fatigued. It’s just enough to make sure a person is rested while also being a small enough window to interfere with trucking operations as minimally as possible.
Where Can Drivers Take 34-Hour Breaks?
While some people believe that drivers must take their 34-hour breaks at home, this isn’t true. The rule is designed so drivers can accumulate their reset hours whether they’re in a sleeper berth or spending their time off duty. The rule is designed for convenience and is meant to be adaptable to a driver’s surroundings, situation, and driving schedule.
However, if drivers wish to spend some of their 34-hour reset in a sleeper berth, they must spend at least eight hours of it there. Even this rule is flexible. Drivers can split the eight-hour sleeper berth rule into multiple breaks if they wish. For example, a driver can split their eight-hour sleeper berth requirement into two four-hour periods.
The 34-Hour Rule Is Designed to Protect the Trucking Industry
When operators don’t make sure drivers follow the 34-hour reset rule or encourage them to break it, they place everyone on the road at risk. When this rule isn’t followed, truck drivers and everyone near them on the road pay the price with their well-being. If you’ve suffered because of an accident caused by fatigue, Arnold & Itkin LLP is ready to help you. Our team of truck accident lawyers has recovered billions of dollars for clients by holding negligent parties accountable.
Call us today for the help you deserve at (888) 493-1629. We’re standing by to provide a free and confidential consultation.