If you have ever tried to make an interstate road trip in a single day, you have probably experienced firsthand how difficult and dangerous it is to drive when you are tired. If it is difficult for a road-weary and sleep-deprived driver to operate a vehicle that is carrying just a few people and perhaps some suitcases, imagine how hard is to drive safely after seven or more hours on the road when the vehicle subject to your bleary-eyed decision-making skills weighs numerous tons and is carrying enough food to feed an entire city. All states, including California, have laws limiting how long truck drivers can drive without taking a break, but California has some of the strictest rules about trucking safety. The most recent version of the Federal Aviation Association reauthorization bill has upheld California’s right to impose its rules, which are stricter than federal regulations.
In the world of personal injury law, this means that trucking companies could be leaving themselves open to truck accident lawsuits if truck drivers who cause accidents turn out to have been driving in California for more than five hours without a break.
What the New Bill Means for California Trucking Safety Rules
The federal bill, House Bill 302, contains provisions to determine how often truck drivers must stop to rest, among other provisions. Currently, federal law states that the longest a driver can go without a 30-minute break is eight hours, while in California, the limit is five hours. Since the maximum length for a workday for a truck driver is 11 hours, it means that in California, truck drivers must take at least two breaks during each eleven-hour shift. FAA regulations must be revised every five years, so HB 302 will determine the rules that will be in place for the next five years.
Legal Controversies Surrounding Mandatory Rest Periods for Truck Drivers
California’s five-hour limit on driving without rest helps prevent truck accidents, but the discrepancy between the federal laws and the state laws causes confusion and sometimes lawsuits. When truck drivers from out of state reach California during their interstate trips, are they required to stop after five hours, or can they keep driving until they reach eight hours? Currently, states can override the federal rules. Truckers from other states have followed California law, taking a break after five hours, causing them to be late for deadlines set by employers in their home states. The truckers have filed class action lawsuits against the trucking companies that employ them, demanding their right to the breaks mandated by California law.
Contact Case Barnett Law About Commercial Vehicle Accident Cases
Regardless of their state of origin, truck drivers in California must take breaks every five hours. If you were injured in an accident caused by a truck that had been on the road in California for more than five hours, you almost certainly have grounds for a lawsuit. Contact Case Barnett in Costa Mesa, California if you have been seriously injured in an accident involving a commercial vehicle.