To be sure, truck drivers have difficult jobs. Typically, they drive for long hours at a time, many days in a row. Because of this, they may get distracted, restless, fatigued, or careless while driving, causing them to make mistakes and potentially cause an accident. Because of the sheer size of most trucks, accidents involving these vehicles are some of the most dangerous to Maryland drivers. When driving near a truck, it is impossible to know if the truck driver is exhausted, paying attention, or how many hours they have been driving without resting. Because of this, drivers are always encouraged to be on high alert and as careful as possible when driving, especially near trucks, to try and minimize the risk of a Maryland truck accident.
The federal government has also taken steps to decrease the number of truck accidents across the nation. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has promulgated regulations that limit how many hours truck drivers can drive each day. Property-carrying drivers (those carrying goods and materials, as opposed to passenger-carrying drivers) can only drive 11 hours within a 14-hour period. This 14-hour period must only start after the driver has been off-duty for 10 consecutive hours. It is important to note that the 11 hours cannot be consecutive: drivers cannot drive more than 8 hours without taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Additionally, the regulations place a limit in how many hours a driver can work each week—if a driver has been “on-duty” for over 70 hours in the past 8 days, or 60 hours in the past 7 days, they cannot drive any more until that is no longer the case. A driver can “reset” the 7- or 8-day period by taking 34 or more hours off.
These regulations are put in place for drivers’ safety, and to minimize the occurrence of truck accidents across the United States. However, truck accidents do still occur, and when they do, people may be injured or even killed. Maryland state law allows those injured in these instances to file a civil negligence suit against the driver—if they were being careless or made a mistake that led to the crash, they can be held liable and ordered to pay monetary damages to cover the resulting harm. Importantly, if a driver was violating the hour of service regulations described above, a plaintiff’s case against them may be more straight-forward, since the defendant was clearly violating federal regulations.