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How Can I Prove I Didn’t Violate the FMCSA Hours of Service (HOS) Rules?

undefinedMany people fail to realize with any traffic violation that it is the state who must prove you did what they accused you of, not that you must prove you didn’t. Some people think that because it is a traffic violation, the rules are different. 

California applies the same Constitutional guarantee for all; you are innocent until proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” What’s more, the “burden of proof” is on the state. 

Recent Changes to the FMCSA’s Hours of Service (HOS) Regulation?

The FMCSA has devised many rules to try to improve driver safety by limiting the number of hours you can drive in a day, the number of hours you can be on duty during a day, the number of hours you can work in a typical week, the number of hours you can be on duty before you take a break and others.

Some are easily tracked by looking at the electronic logging device (ELD) log. However, some unexpected occurrences could leave a question if you were within the regulation. Take, for instance, another driver fuels your vehicle, takes it into maintenance, to the wash rack, or you use it for personal conveyance without changing the ELD status; it could look as if you violated the HOS for driving.

Regardless of guilt or innocence, a driver must challenge the dispute in court as the FMCSA could levy civil penalties of $1,000 to $11,000 for the driver and/or the carrier per conviction. What’s more, a penalty for violating the HOS rules while hauling HazMat could be up to $75,000. Don’t risk it. Always consult an attorney. 

When you finish driving for the day but take the truck to a reasonably close restaurant for dinner, you must remember to change the ELD status to “personal conveyance,” just as when another driver drives it for fuel or maintenance, they must enter their identifier.

The Mandatory 30-Minute Break 

This rule is usually the most clear-cut without exception. The driver must take a 30-minute break before they complete eight hours of driving. That 30-minutes could include the driver checking their load or doing some driving-related tasks (the old standard was the driver was entirely off-duty for that 30 minutes), but it must be an uninterrupted 30 minutes.

For instance, the driver parks the truck and goes in to get a sandwich and coffee, but when he comes out, a police officer directs him to move the truck due to an emergency. The driver must move the truck, but they must also restart their 30-minute clock for the break.

The Sleeper Berth Provision

This rule is one of the most complicated HOS rules, as the driver has the discretion to split the time. They could use seven hours in the sleeper, and two hours outside the sleeper, let’s say for lunch in a café, as long as the total time equals or exceeds the “10-hour minimum off-duty” time, they are probably within the law. 

An Exception for Adverse Hours

An exception for adverse hours could delay the driver’s driving time or their on-duty time by up to two hours. If the driver must pull over for up to two hours because of adverse weather ahead on the intended route, that can be considered off-duty time. 

There’s Also a “Short-Haul Exception”

The short-haul exception could nullify a driver’s need to maintain a log if they meet specific requirements. If they start from and finish their day within a 150 air-mile radius, they could have up to 14 hours to complete their duty day.

These are recently enacted changes to the FMCSA HOS regulations. When you have questions about your HOS status, check the FMCSA’s FAQ Regulatory Guidance.

What Should You Do About an HOS Violation?

Whenever you are cited for an HOS violation, consult a traffic attorney, and challenge the state’s assumption that you violated the DOT FMCSA HOS Regulations.

Consult with a Traffic Attorney in Woodland, CA Area 

When you get ticketed for an HOS violation in Woodland, CA in Yolo County, call Bigger & Harman, (661) 349-9300. 

Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.

We use a flat rate to resolve your ticket, so you pay the same reasonable price despite the number of times we must attend court to resolve your ticket or other traffic issue.

Email: attorney@biggerharmanlaw.com

References:

The 2019-2021 CA Commercial Driver Handbook.pdf

The DOT FMCSA HOS Final Rule Summary