What Is the 30-Minute Break Rule for Truckers?
A leading cause of truck accidents in Texas and the U.S. is driver fatigue. This is not surprising when you think about the job of a truck driver. They spend their days hauling heavy cargo from one destination to another on busy highways and roads. They are often under pressure to deliver the goods on strict timelines and often travel through the night to get to their final destination.
Driving, in general, can be exhausting, but add in that giant truck; heavy, hazardous, or fragile cargo; busy highways; and fatigue is sure to set in and can cause disaster on the road.
Studies by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest that sleep deprivation or fatigue can impair driving the same way alcohol does. The studies concluded that a person who stays awake longer than 24 hours reacts the same way as someone having a blood alcohol content of 0.10 percent, which is higher than the legal blood alcohol limit of 0.08 percent for most states. That’s an alarming discovery.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) introduced an important regulation in 2011 to encourage truckers to take breaks to alleviate fatigue and prevent serious and deadly truck accidents.
The regulation originally stated that truck drivers who drive more than 150 miles from their origin must take a 30-minute break within the first eight hours of their driving shift. Many truck drivers and companies disliked this rule because it added delivery time to their tight timelines and schedules.
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) petitioned the FMCSA to rescind the 30-minute break rule, asserting that the rule was not easy to enforce, that it led to logbook violations, and that it did not do much to enhance road safety. Their petition was denied, but the FMCSA revised the rule a few years later.
If you suffered an injury in a truck accident by a truck driver who ignored the hours of service regulations, be sure to speak with an experienced truck accident attorney about your case.
Revised 30-Minute Break Rule
The original rule was published in 2011 but did not take effect until July 2013. Revised hours of service regulations were published in June 2020 and took effect on September 29, 2020. The revised FMCSA regulation is here. The new rule still requires 30 minutes of rest, but the driver can take this rest time as 30 minutes of duty time, 30 minutes of on-duty non-driving time, or 30 minutes of sleeping time in the sleeper berth. Additionally, the new rule permits truckers to combine two or three options to meet the required 30 minutes.
With the new rule, the 30-minute break is still necessary, but only after eight hours of driving. The driving time can now be cumulative; it does not need to be consecutive. The changes came about to provide drivers with more flexibility. Another benefit to this new regulation is that non-driving tasks can count as rest if the driver chooses to do that.
Truck drivers can now combine their 30-minute breaks into 10 minutes off-duty, 10 minutes of not driving but working, and/or 10 minutes of sleeper berth. Truckers can use any combination they choose, but the 30 minutes must be consecutive, meaning a truck driver cannot take ten minutes off at 9 a.m. off duty, then drive and take another ten minutes to sleep at noon and another ten minutes to sleep again at 4 p.m.
The breaks must be one after the other to meet the 30-minute break time. Drivers can work past the eight-hour mark without taking a 30-minute break if they’re on duty but not driving, such as loading and unloading. Additionally, the break does not extend the 14 hours drivers have to complete their daily drive time.
To satisfy the 30-minute break, drivers have the option to:
Take the entire 30 minutes off duty to satisfy the requirement.
Take the entire 30 minutes on duty but not driving. This may include roadside inspection time; yard moves (meaning a driver must move their vehicle, providing they do not have to drive on a highway); and/or loading or unloading cargo.
Sleep in the sleeper berth for 30 minutes. Modern trucks have sleeper berths installed. These berths or cabins are also called truck sleepers or sleeper cabs. Modern sleeper berths are large, comfortable, and equipped to provide adequate sleeping space for career truck drivers.
Any combination of the above tasks will work to satisfy the 30-minute break requirement as long as they are in a consecutive 30-minute time period.
Exemptions to the 30-Minute Break Rule
The rule is mandatory unless a truck driver qualifies for an exemption. Some drivers may qualify for the exemption. The United States Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) provides some exemptions as follows:
Short Haul Drivers
CDL drivers that meet all of the following exceptions are exempt from this 30-minute break rule if they:
Stay within 100 air miles radius of their shift start;
Must stop working and go off duty after 12 hours on duty (no more than 11 driving hours per shift);
Must report back to starting location at the end of 12-hour shift; and
Must take ten consecutive hours of rest after going off duty and starting a new shift.
It is important to note that if drivers break any of those four qualifying conditions for short-haul exemption, they must take a 30-minute break.
The time a driver takes the rest break depends on when they violated any of the above conditions:
Within eight hours of driving, the driver must take a 30-minute rest break before the end of the eighth hour.
After eight hours of driving, the driver must take a 30-minute break before completing 14 hours of driving.
This exemption pertains to drivers carrying hazardous materials who don’t qualify for the short haul exemption and are required to take a 30-minute break. This is a partial exemption but not an exemption from the 30-minute break. This exception exempts the driver from being required to go off duty and leave the truck during their rest time.
This requirement to leave the truck conflicts with the U.S. DOT regulation, which mandates that drivers must stay with their truck or remain on duty if they are transporting hazardous materials. To resolve this conflict, the DOT created an exemption allowing those who haul hazardous materials to take their break on duty and remain with their truck.
This partial exemption applies only when:
The driver does not qualify for the short haul exemption.
Driver must be hauling hazardous material.
Driver must be inside or within 25 feet of the truck during the 30 minutes of required rest.
The 30-minute rest break must be logged as “on duty” time.
They may not perform other duties while taking the 30-minute break.
A satisfactory safety rating is necessary for the driver and carrier.
A driver may sit in their truck or stay within 25 feet for the 30-minute break if all these conditions are present. A driver cannot count time waiting in line at the terminal rack or loading and unloading cargo under this exemption. No other duties can be performed during the 30-minute rest period for those partially exempt from hazardous materials.
What Are Common Violations?
In addition to taking 30-minute breaks, the FMCSA also set limits on driving and on-duty time. Violations of these hours-of-service rules may have dire consequences for carriers and drivers, including high fines, warnings, intervention by the FMCSA, and even suspension. Some common violations include the following:
Driving longer than the on-duty driving time limits allow
The FMCSA set time limits on driving time for truck drivers. Property-carrying drivers can drive 11 hours after being off duty for ten consecutive hours. Passenger-carrying drivers can drive 10 hours after being off duty for ten consecutive hours. The limits only refer to driving time, the time spent operating the vehicle, not total time on duty.
Working longer than on-duty time limits allow
The FMCSA also limits how long a truck operator can be on duty. This refers to the time when a driver begins work until the time they clock out, including driving time, breaks, and stops. Property-carrying drivers can be on-duty for 14 hours after 10 hours of driving, while passenger drivers can be on-duty for 15 hours after 8 hours of being off duty.
There is an adverse driving conditions exemption to this regulation. Drivers may extend their limits by 2 hours when severe weather such as snow, ice, sleet, or fog causes difficult driving. This exemption only applies if the weather was not expected or predicted when driving duty started.
Driving for more than 60 hours over seven days or 70 hours over eight days
Drivers must adhere to limits over days, not just daily. All truck drivers are limited to 60 hours within seven days and 70 hours over eight days. Drivers can only begin their next 60 to 70 hours of driving after a minimum of 34 hours of rest or off-duty time.
All drivers must keep accurate logs to maintain compliance with regulations. FMCSA regulations require that drivers must maintain accurate 24-hour logs. They need to record hours to prove they are not in violation. Fines for logbook violations tend to be quite high and can also lead to driver suspensions and low Compliance Safety and Accountability (CSA) Scores.
CSA Scores are one way the FMCSA can ensure that carriers and truck drivers follow safety regulations. Poor CSA scores can lead to trouble for trucking companies, so it is to their advantage that their drivers abide by all safety standards and protocols.
Since 2017, drivers have had to record hours using an electronic logging device (ELD) approved by FMCSA. The electronic log synchronizes with a truck’s engine and tracks driving time, location, miles driven, and many other aspects of trucking.
Knowingly falsifying logs and records.
Lying to feign compliance is never a good option for a truck driver and can result in driver suspension and penalties for a carrier. The evolution from paper logs to ELDs has made it more difficult to lie about driving records. This tool makes it easier for drivers to accurately report and record their time on and off duty.
In a perfect world, everyone will follow safety protocols, and fatigued truck drivers will not be a problem. However, strict time constraints and unrealistic schedules exist and result in impaired driving. Suppose you or a loved one have been a victim of a fatigued truck driver’s negligence or violation of safety protocols. In that case, you will want to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer to help you obtain compensation for any damages you’ve experienced.
Who is liable when a truck driver is fatigued?
Determining liability in a truck accident is complex, as many parties might share the blame, including the carrier, the driver, the cargo company, cargo loaders, manufacturers, and even maintenance and repair companies. An experienced truck accident attorney has the resources and experience to help identify all liable parties, manage your truck accident claim, and protect your interests.
Should I hire a lawyer if I’m in a truck accident due to fatigued driving?
Retaining legal representation is best if you have been in a truck accident. A truck accident lawyer will help to protect you from insurance companies and trucking companies who may attempt to deny your claim or offer inadequate settlements.
Your attorney will defend your best interests and work to recover compensation for damages you may have incurred. A truck accident may cause lifelong, irreparable damage to you and your passengers. An experienced truck accident attorney knows how to manage this claim and ensure you receive the compensation you need and deserve.
Call an experienced personal injury lawyer in your area today to schedule a free initial consultation. You only have a limited time in which to file a claim for compensation.