Truck Driving Rules and Regulations in Alabama

trucks in alabama

Commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are a common sight on America’s roadways. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that nearly 15 million large trucks are registered nationally. More than 600,000 trucking companies employ or contract with 6.8 million CMV drivers.

Many CMV operators drive safely, following traffic laws and trucking regulations. However, CMV operators who do not follow the rules can cause devastating accidents. The FMCSA reports that between 4,000 and 5,000 people are killed annually in large truck crashes — and many more are injured.

The Alabama trucking accident attorneys at Stokes Stemle, LLC are well-versed in the complexities of CMV regulations and the accidents that can occur when drivers do not follow them. If a CMV driver caused a crash that injured you, call or contact us online today for a free consultation.

What Are the Hours of Service Rules According to the FMCSA?

The FMCSA regulates the country’s interstate trucking industry. CMV drivers are subject to strict hours of service (HoS) rules. These rules limit how many hours a truck driver can drive in a given period and require the trucker to take breaks. Different HoS rules apply to drivers of property-carrying CMVs, such as truck drivers, and operators of passenger-carrying commercial vehicles.

The hours of service rules for truck drivers carrying property include the following:

  • 11-hour driving limit — Truck drivers can drive up to 11 hours after spending 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 14-hour driving limit — Truck drivers cannot drive after more than 14 straight hours since they came on duty. The 14-hour period can’t be extended even if it includes off-duty time.
  • 30-minute break — Truck drivers must take a 30-minute break after driving for eight cumulative hours without at least a half-hour interruption. Truck drivers can spend their 30-minute break by going off duty, remaining on duty but not on the road, taking a nap in the sleeper berth, or a combination.
  • 60/70-hour limit — Truck drivers may not drive more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days or more than 70 hours in eight consecutive days. Truck drivers can start a new seven or eight-day period after at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.
  • Sleeper berth time — Drivers can split their off-duty time if they want. However, one off-duty period must include spending at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other at least two hours in or out of the sleeper berth. The two off-duty periods must add up to at least 10 hours.
  • Adverse conditions — Both the 11-hour driving limit and the 14-hour on-duty period can be extended by two hours each if the truck driver encounters adverse conditions such as bad weather.

Truckers have a responsibility to avoid injuring others and operate their vehicles safely. Following HoS rules is a major part of that obligation. Failing to do so can have serious consequences.

Penalties for Violating the HOS Rules

If law enforcement catches a driver operating outside their hours of service, they can shut down the truck immediately. Law enforcement can make the driver park the truck until the hours of service reset, which can be up to 34 hours.

Drivers and carriers can also face steep fines for HoS violations – ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars per violation. If the violating driver was carrying hazardous materials, the fine could be over $80,000.