The current regulations for the amount of time drivers of large commercial vehicles can continuously operate their vehicles were published by the Federal Register in December 2011 and are known as the Hours of Service of Drivers Final Rule. Besides designating the maximum hours of driving permitted for drivers, these regulations also establish mandatory breaks for them.
According to the Hours of Service of Drivers Final Rule, the regulations apply to commercial vehicles that weigh 10,001 or more pounds or that carry hazardous wastes in quantities large enough to require a placard identifying the waste. Under the law, drivers of these types of vehicles must not exceed 14-hour workdays. Furthermore, only 11 of those hours may be dedicated to driving.
The law also states that a driver's average workweek must not exceed 70 hours. Moreover, when drivers do reach that 70-hour threshold before the week's end, they must rest for 34 continuous hours, within which must pass two nights, before they can resume driving. Prior to these new regulations, the average workweek limit was 82 hours.
In large part, these regulations were enacted in order to cut down on truck accidents attributed to driver exhaustion. Toward this end, the Hours of Service of Drivers Final Rule also requires drivers to take a 30-minute rest within the first eight hours of any shift.
Drivers who violate these regulations may face more than just professional sanctions. For example, in the event that a trucker who causes a traffic accident is found to be in violation of one of these regulations, both that trucker and the trucker's employer may be held liable for the wreck and its consequent damages in civil court. For, accident victims may sue such parties through a personal injury lawsuit, citing negligence.
Source: FMCSA, "Hours of Service", October 28, 2014