Even if you have never been a commercial truck driver, anyone who has been on a road trip knows how tiring it can be. Fatigue can sap you of your reflexes, judgment and perception of the world around you. Someone nodding off behind the wheel of a huge, multi-ton semi can put themselves and everyone around them on the road in grave danger of a trucking accident.
The rules around truck driver rest periods
Federal regulators try to combat this with rules that essentially try to force truck drivers to take regular breaks and get some sleep. Drivers hauling freight can drive up to 11 hours within a period of 14 consecutive hours. But the 14-hour active duty period and 11 hours of driving time can only begin after the driver has been off duty for at least ten straight hours. They must also take a 30-minute break after driving for eight total hours within the 14-hour period. Drivers can spend the break on duty but not driving, off duty, or in the sleeper berth of their truck.
Drivers may not work more than 60 hours over seven consecutive days or 70 hours over eight consecutive days. To start a new seven- or eight-day work period, the law requires them to go off duty for at least 34 consecutive hours.
Why truckers sometimes break the rules
That is what the regulations say. Most drivers follow the rules, but some do not. Under pressure from the trucking company, truckers sometimes go without rest for a day or more to meet their deadlines. Unfortunately, this means that you could be near an exhausted or dozing-off driver every time you are on the highway in the Metroplex.