Federal rules regarding truck driver fatigue issues
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations often referred to in cases where tired truckers wreck include the following:
49 C.F.R. § 392.3, Driver Impairment.
No driver shall operate a commercial motor vehicle, and a motor carrier shall not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle, while the driver’s ability or alertness is so impaired, or so likely to become impaired, through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle.
§ 390.11 Motor carrier to require observance of driver regulations.
Whenever … a duty is prescribed for a driver or a prohibition is imposed upon the driver, it shall be the duty of the motor carrier to require observance of such duty or prohibition. If the motor carrier is a driver, the driver shall likewise be bound.
FMCSR, 49 C.F.R. § 390.13, provides that
"No person shall aid, abet, encourage, or require a motor carrier or its employees to violate the rules of this chapter." It does not say "no motor carrier."
49 CFR 390.5 defines "person" as follows:
Person means any individual, partnership, association, corporation, business trust, or any other organized group of individuals.
§ 395.3 Maximum driving time for property-carrying vehicles.
Subject to the exceptions and exemptions in § 395.1:
(a) No motor carrier shall permit or require any driver used by it to drive a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle, nor shall any such driver drive a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle:
(1) More than 11 cumulative hours following 10 consecutive hours off duty; or
(2) For any period after the end of the 14th hour after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty, except when a property-carrying driver complies with the provisions of § 395.1(o) or § 395.1(e)(2).
(b) No motor carrier shall permit or require a driver of a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle to drive, nor shall any driver drive a property-carrying commercial motor vehicle, regardless of the number of motor carriers using the driver’s services, for any period after-
(1) Having been on duty 60 hours in any period of 7 consecutive days if the employing motor carrier does not operate commercial motor vehicles every day of the week; or
(2) Having been on duty 70 hours in any period of 8 consecutive days if the employing motor carrier operates commercial motor vehicles every day of the week.
§ 395.8 Driver’s record of duty status.
(a) Except for a private motor carrier of passengers (nonbusiness), every motor carrier shall require every driver used by the motor carrier to record his/her duty status for each 24 hour period using the methods prescribed [herein]….
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(e) Failure to complete the record of duty activities of this section or § 395.15, failure to preserve a record of such duty activities, or making of false reports in connection with such duty activities shall make the driver and/or the carrier liable to prosecution.
A court may also consider the applicable administrative interpretations included in the Regulatory Guidance for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, 62 Fed.Reg. 16370 (1997). The agency "consolidated previously issued interpretations and regulatory guidance materials and developed concise interpretive guidance in question and answer form for each part of the FMCSRs." Id. at 16370. "[A]n agency’s interpretation of its own regulations is entitled to a relatively high level of deference…. A court must accept the interpretation unless it is … plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the regulation." United States v. Thorson, No. 03-C-0074- C, 2004 WL 737522, at *8 (W.D.Wis. Apr. 6, 2004); "Deference is particularly appropriate when an agency interprets its own regulation." Hickey v. Great W. Mortgage Corp., No. 94 C 3638, 1995 WL 317095, at *5 (N.D.Ill. May 23, 1995).
The Regulatory Guidance for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, 62 FR 16370-01 (1997) includes the following official administrative interpretations of the regulations:
Question 7: What is the liability of a motor carrier for hours of service violations?
Guidance: The carrier is liable for violations of the hours of service regulations if it had or should have had the means by which to detect the violations. Liability under the FMCSRs does not depend upon actual knowledge of the violations.
Question 8: Are carriers liable for the actions of their employees even though the carrier contends that it did not require or permit the violations to occur?
Guidance: Yes. Carriers are liable for the actions of their employees. Neither intent to commit, nor actual knowledge of, a violation is a necessary element of that liability. Carriers "permit" violations of the hours of service regulations by their employees if they fail to have in place management systems that effectively prevent such violations.
In interpretation of 49 C.F.R. § 395.8, the regulatory guidance states:
Question 21: What is the carrier’s liability when its drivers falsify records of duty status?
Guidance: A carrier is liable both for the actions of its drivers in submitting false documents and for its own actions in accepting false documents. 62 Fed.Reg. at 16426. In short, “Motor carriers have a duty to require drivers to observe the FMCSRs.”
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks.