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Can Semi-Truck Drivers Request Hours-of Service Exemptions?

At the Law Offices of Keith Bregoff, P.A., our Vero Beach truck accident attorneys know there are seemingly endless Federal regulations that apply to commercial vehicle and semi-truck transportation in the U.S.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an agency in the U.S. Department of Transportation that regulates the trucking industry in the United States. It is also the agency that implements the Hours-of-Service Regulations for all semi-truck drivers.

While the work hours and rest requirements for semi-truck and other commercial vehicle drivers are highly enforced, there are times when exemptions are put in place for the good of the public.

An emergency exemption to U.S. truck driver Hours-of-Service recently expired after it was implemented in March 2020, when COVID-19 swept the nation. The exemption allowed truck drivers hauling certain emergency and medical-related supplies to exceed the restrictions limiting them to 11 hours of driving time per day.

Currently, Florida has multiple executive orders in place, suspending enforcement of the registration requirements for commercial motor vehicles that enter Florida to provide emergency services or supplies, to transport emergency equipment, supplies, or personnel, or to transport FEMA mobile homes or office-style mobile homes into or from Florida, and waiving hours-of-service requirements for such vehicles, as they respond to Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole damage.

These types of orders are common when responding to natural disasters and other emergencies throughout the U.S. When these exemptions are put in place, truck drivers may take advantage of the extended hours, while others believe they should also be exempt from Hours-of-Service regulations.

Some do so legally. Others hope not to get caught. A few will even request Hours-of-Service exemptions directly from the FMSCA. The question becomes, can anyone ask for an exemption? And when are they granted?

When Can Semi-Truck Drivers Ask for Hours-of-Service Exemptions from the FMSCA?

As mentioned, the FMSCA will implement Emergency Declarations, Waivers, Exemptions and Permits for Hours-of-Service regulations in the U.S. However, drivers can — and often do — submit formal requests to the Administration, explaining why they should be exempt from Federal regulations.

Recently, the Federal Register reported a long-time truck driver asked the agency for a five-year exemption from five of the provisions in the Hours-of-Service rules.

The driver pointed to his safe driving record and 30 years of experience as reasons for the exemption. He noted that he has not been involved in any crashes and that he has accumulated more than 3 million safe driving miles during his career as a trucker.

In response, “FMCSA analyzed the application and public comments and determined that the exemption would not achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent such exemption,” the agency wrote in the notice.

“Exempting the petitioner from these hours-of-service provisions and allowing him to drive as long, frequently and as much as he desires would be utterly reckless and presents a needless threat to public safety regardless of his past driving record,” the safety group wrote. “Granting the application would also disregard well-established science on driver fatigue.”

“The agency established and enforces the hours-of-service regulations to keep fatigued drivers off the public roadways,” the agency wrote. “Research studies demonstrate that long work hours reduce sleep and harm driver health, and that crash risk increases with work hours.”

The primary mission of the FMCSA is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. Denying requests for Hours-of-Service exemptions is a good start, but it does not keep semi-truck drivers from breaking the law. They must be held accountable for their negligent actions. That is why we are here.

Contact Our Skilled Vero Beach Truck Accident Attorney to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been injured in an accident with a negligent truck driver in Florida, contact our experienced personal injury lawyer in Vero Beach at the Law Offices of Keith Bregoff today by calling (772) 492-8967 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

We can protect your rights from the beginning and help build your case for success.


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