California Driving Laws for Truck Drivers
There are strict limits in California on how long bus or truck drives may drive. Just as pilots and flight crews have limits on how many consecutive hours they can fly or tend to an airplane, bus and truck drivers also have an hour limit. This limit was put in place after accidents caused by sleeping drivers who had worked for as long as 24 straight hours which killed both those drivers and other people on the road. If you’ve been injured in a trucking accident, our Los Angeles personal injury lawyer will surely ask how long the driver had been working for before the accident. Here is a look at the limits on working hours for drivers who operate larger vehicles, and what it means for you as a driver.
The California Law — Vehicle Code 21702
The hour limits for commercial drivers is found in California Vehicle Code section 21702. Section 21702 states that a bus driver may work a maximum of ten consecutive hours in a day. A bus driver may also work only ten hours in a 15-hour period. If the driver has worked ten hours during the day, the driver must take an 8-hour break before continuing to drive.
For truck drivers, the code declares that they may work a maximum of 12 hours in a row, 12 hours out of 15, and if they have worked 12 hours during a given day, they must take an eight hour break.
California also has regulations governing how long a truck or bus driver can work in a given eight-day period, with other rules mandating that a truck driver must take a 34-hour “weekend” between eight-day periods, but these are not penalized under the criminal law.
The most common defenses to this violation are that the driver will argue that he violated the rules by mistake, or had to drive due to an emergency. Either way, a law firm that has experience with truck accident cases, will overlook false claims and fight on your behalf to recover damages against the at-fault driver.
Punishment for the Driver
Penalties for violating section 21702 are severe for the driver: the driver is guilty of a misdemeanor (the same as for reckless driving or driving under the influence) and may be penalized with a $100-$1,000 fine.
The penalties are worse if the driver ignores the ticket and fails to appear in court. Then, the driver could be charged with failure to appear under California Vehicle Code 40508, whether or not the driver was actually guilty of violating section 21702. If found guilty of failing to appear, the driver could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Driver Fatigue Can Result in Accidents
Federal studies have found that 13 percent of truck accidents involved drivers that were tired at the time of the accident. We all know from personal experience that our reaction time is not the same when we are tired as when we are fully awake. If you have been injured in an accident with a bus or truck, your lawyer will surely look into the other driver’s physical condition at the time of the accident.
It can be hard to prove that a person was tired at the time of an accident, though new technology installed in trucks tracks drivers’ eyes to see if they are closing or closed, indicating that the driver is too tired to drive. Still, the stuck that hit you may not have had that technology. This is where the California regulations can be key.
Your lawyer can use Vehicle Code section 21702 to argue that the other driver was fatigued as a matter of law. Oftentimes, when a person injures you and the person is breaking the law at the same time, the fact that they were breaking the law can be used as conclusive evidence that they were negligent and should have to compensate you.
Your tractor trailer accident lawyer in Los Angeles will request any log books that the driver filled out showing the hours that they drove. Commercial drivers are required to fill out these books every day that they drive to ensure that they are complying with the driving limits. Previously, these were just paper books that the driver could easily fabricate to make it look like they had not driven too much, or destroy them if they got into an accident and the log would have shown something bad for them. Of course, this was not a good strategy, because if the log book went missing, your legal representative would be able to argue at trial that it must have shown something bad for the driver, and may even get a just instruction read at trial to that effect.
Today, federal law mandates that all log books are kept electronically and are linked to the truck’s engine. Therefore, the driver cannot cheat and drive longer than the law allows; these electronic systems cannot be disconnected or tampered with. The introduction of this mandate has led to widespread protests by truckers against the electronic systems. Note, however, that the regulations on driving time have been around for years with no widespread protests; the protests are only against the electronic systems that prevent the drivers from cheating on their log books. Logs can be used to show that the driver was on the road for too long at the time of your accident.
Truck and bus accidents can involve serious injuries and professional drivers full of excuses for why they crashed and should not be held responsible. If a tractor trailer crashed into you consulting with an attorney is the next best step.