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Federal "rest rules" and how they can help injured victims

Many truckers who travel through Virginia are subject to federal rules and regulations because they haul between states. Some of these regulations prevent truck driver fatigue by requiring truckers to rest periodically, even though the temptation might be to travel through the night and for as long as possible to be able to make more money.

In making these rules, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recognizes what many Roanoke residents already know: a fatigued truck driver is dangerous to the motorists on the road and more likely to cause serious truck accidents that can leave a Virginian permanently disabled or even dead.

Specifically, for truckers who are hauling property, the federal hours of service rules require a driver to take a rest for 10 hours after he or she has spent 11 hours behind the wheel. Because bathroom and gas breaks do not count as "behind the wheel," the Administration has made a separate rule requiring 10 hours of rest after 14 hours on the clock, which is time that would include temporary breaks in travel.

The rules also require approximately a day and a half off after a trucker has been on the clock, either 60 or 70 hours a week, depending on the trucker's circumstances. If a trucker who is subject to them chooses not to follow these rest rules, then the trucker runs the risk of fines or, in serious cases, being told it can no longer legally haul property in interstate commerce.

Moreover, injured victims can also benefit from these rules should a fatigued driver cause an accident. They can do so by pointing out if the driver had taken the requisite breaks and logged them correctly. The driver's not doing so is evidence of negligently driving while too tired to do so.

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