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Comparing State & Federal Hours Of Service Laws


Commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and their drivers are subject to rules known as Hours of Service (HoS) regulations. Both at the state and federal levels, HoS rules are designed to restrict commercial drivers from operating their vehicles in an unsafe manner. However, many states’ rules differ significantly from federal regulations. If you have been injured in an accident with a CMV, it can be difficult to determine which set of rules applies in your situation, and which can be used to try and hold a negligent driver liable.

Why Have Hours Of Service?

One of the most common causes of CMV accidents is driver fatigue, with another being poorly maintained vehicles. Hours of Service regulations are squarely aimed at minimizing both of these issues, which in turn can impair a driver’s judgment and reflexes roughly on the same level as using drugs or alcohol behind the wheel. As of this writing, many states have stricter regulations than the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Florida included, but the federal rules are a place from which CMV companies and drivers can begin.

Federal rules require, for example, that a driver carrying cargo (as opposed to passengers) must drive no more than 11 hours at a time after 8 hours off the clock, and may not be on duty for more than 14 hours at a time. Drivers are also required to take at least a 30-minute break from driving if they have not done so in the last 8 hours. There is also a “short-haul” exception for those who operate within 150 air miles of their home base.

Florida’s Rules Are More Lax

Comparatively, Florida’s Hours of Service rules, intended for drivers who operate within the state, are similar to the federal regulations, but slightly less strict. For example, the state also requires drivers to operate their vehicles for no more than 11 hours at a time, but can drive up to 16 hours after 10 hours off duty, rather than 14. This may not seem like much of a difference, but for a driver prone to negligence, those two hours may make all the difference.

It is worth noting, in addition, that when an intrastate driver operates in interstate commerce, they must obey what is known as the 14/15 day rule. This means that the driver must be in full compliance with federal HoS regulations during the interstate trip, plus for one week afterward. If you are involved in an accident with a driver who has disobeyed the rules, this may be a building block in your case to help establish negligence after a crash.

Contact A Tampa CMV Accident Attorney

It can be difficult to think about filing suit if you have been involved in an accident with a CMV, but you have the right to seek damages for the harm you have suffered. A Tampa truck accident attorney from the Rinaldo Law Group can offer dedicated and knowledgeable representation during what can be a scary time for you and yours. Call our office today for a free consultation.


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