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The federal Hours of Service rules protect Floridians

Those who live in the Tampa area probably recognize to some degree the inherent dangers of a bus driver or truck driver trying to operate their large vehicles on little or poor quality sleep. After all, in the most serious cases, a driver who is too fatigued to be operating a vehicle may exhibit same symptoms as would a drunk driver or a driver who is on drugs.

For these and other reasons, the federal government has promulgated a series of regulations specifying exactly how much time commercial vehicle drivers need to rest after being on the road. Not every trucker on Florida's highways are subject to these regulations, and, even for those who are subject to them, they cannot prevent every instance of driver fatigue. Still, they promote highway safety by requiring drivers to take break every so often that are long enough for the driver to get some rest.

Specifically, truck drivers who are hauling cargo have to stop for a 10-hour break after they have been behind the wheel for 11 hours. Because time "behind the wheel" does not include stops for things like bathroom breaks, meals and gas, the rules also clarify that after 14 hours on the road, a driver has to stop for a 10-hour rest, which, hopefully gives the driver enough time to sleep.

The rules for bus drivers and those who are otherwise transporting passengers are slightly different. A driver of a bus may only operate for 10 hours behind the wheel before taking an extended break. However, they need only rest for 8 hours as opposed to 10 hours. Moreover, the can spend 15 hours on the road so long as they make up the additional 5 hours in the form of short breaks.

Not following these rules can mean a driver or his or her transportation company gets fined or has to face other administrative penalties. Moreover, a violation of these "rest rules" can also be used as evidence in a personal injury or wrongful death cases if a driver subject to them is fatigued and causes an accident.

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