I taught another safety class for my construction company in Cincinnati this week. One of the best questions I got was, “well what if I drive beyond the 14 hour rule, how much trouble am I in?” If you get stopped by the police while you are over hours, you’ll be placed Out of Service for 10 hours, and get a big ticket. If DOT audits you, and they discover you went over the limit, there could be penalties for it. Usually, DOT will allow a small percentage of violations without penalty, as long as you are not 5 or 6 hours over the limit.
The main thing you must keep in mind is legal jeopardy. If you are operating over the hours limits, you are civilly and possibly criminally liable should a big accident occur. A few days ago I posted an article about how Swift Transportation has to pay a $36.5 million judgement because their driver was (probably) over hours at the time of a fatal wreck. Or, the driver himself can be prosecuted and put in jail. It may not even matter if the accident wasn’t your fault. The prosecutor can use the argument that you wouldn’t have been there to be invovled in the accident if you were following the hours rules…. an argument he will win. Here’s an example of a driver who violated the rules, and was found guilty this year. Most of time, there are little or no consequences for violating the rules. If something happens, though, there can be devastating consequences.
Eric Arnold is a Former Enforcement Agent with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and a leading expert on USDOT compliance for small businesses. Do you have a question for Eric Arnold? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.