The Sleeper Berth Provision and Truck Accidents

Jan 16

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires that truck drivers take regular breaks to avoid fatigue. In most cases, drivers spend 14 hours working, but can only drive for 11 hours within that 14-hour shift. Then, they must take 10 hours off duty.

However, the sleeper berth provision is a complicated exception that allows drivers to essentially freeze their clock while they are on duty but not actively driving. This provision often comes in handy when a driver has arrived at a loading dock but must wait, sometimes for hours, to get their load and continue driving.

When truck drivers fail to get adequate rest, serious truck crashes and injuries can happen. If you have been in a truck accident, an attorney from Blackburn Romey can determine whether a violation of the sleep berth provision—or another form of negligence—caused the collision. 


The Sleeper Berth Provision Is Complex, and Truck Drivers Must Abide by the Letter of the Rule

Even truck drivers may struggle to fully grasp the details of the sleeper berth provision. As the FMCSA explains, drivers can combine time spent in their cab’s sleeper berth with other off-duty time in order to reset their on-duty clock.


In other words, drivers do not have to be off duty for 10 consecutive hours. So long as they can spend at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and then spend another three hours off-duty during the qualifying time frame, the sleeper berth provision applies. 

As truck accident victims, you do not need to be intimately familiar with the details of the sleeper berth provision. However, your lawyer may need to be.


Abusing or Misinterpreting the Sleeper Berth Provision Could Lead to a Truck Accident

When a truck driver must simply work 14 hours on and ten hours off, the formula is simple enough. However, when a truck driver begins trying to navigate the complexities of the sleep berth provision, they may:

  • Misinterpret the details of the provision.
  • Abuse the provision. 
  • Fail to honor every single detail of the provision.

In any of these cases, a driver may increase the risk that they will cause an accident. The FMCSA enforces hours of service regulations for a reason, and that is to reduce the risk of tired or overworked drivers causing accidents.

If a truck driver misused the sleeper berth provision, they might have knowingly or unknowingly increased the odds of an accident. If such an accident caused harm to you or a loved one, Blackburn Romey can work to get money to cover your damages.


Truck Drivers and Their Employers Have Several Non-Negotiable Responsibilities

Hours of service regulations are just one of the many rules that truckers and their employers must abide by. In order to remain compliant with federal regulations and the basic demands of the duty of care, truck drivers must:

  • Maintain a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
  • Be up-to-date on all medical examinations.
  • Refrain from illicit drug or alcohol use before or while driving.
  • Be vigilant to potential defects in their truck, trailer, or cargo.
  • Abide by all safety mandates.
  • Honor their hours of services limitations. 

Trucking companies also have a great responsibility. Some general duties of trucking companies include:

  • Installing and maintaining electronic logging devices (ELDs) in commercial vehicles
  • Ensuring that drivers are up to date on their licensing and medical requirements.
  • Providing adequate instruction and training to drivers
  • Vigilantly monitoring drivers for drug and alcohol use
  • Holding drivers accountable for violations of company policy, federal regulations, or best driving practices
  • Regularly servicing vehicles
  • Replacing dangerous vehicles

Truckers and their employers know the stakes of negligence. When truckers or their employers cause accidents, lives are at risk. Therefore, there is no excuse for flouting regulations or otherwise putting others in harm’s way.


Truck Drivers Have the Greatest Power to Prevent Truck Accidents

Motorists are the leading cause of traffic accidents. Though vehicle defects, weather conditions beyond a driver’s control, and other hazards sometimes cause truck collisions, drivers far and away pose the greatest risk of a truck accident.

Truck drivers may increase the likelihood of causing an accident by:

  • Driving beyond hours-of-service regulations, which may cause fatigue.
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Driving while under the influence of illicit (or even prescribed) drugs.
  • Engaging in distracted behavior while driving
  • Speeding
  • Tailgating
  • Changing lanes dangerously
  • Running stop signs, red lights, and yield signs
  • Engaging in any other activity known to increase the risk of a collision.

Truck drivers must exercise the utmost caution at all times, as the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) explains that passenger vehicle occupants are far more likely to suffer serious injuries in a truck accident. 


Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident?

When a truck driver causes a truck accident, their employer is typically liable as well. Each truck accident warrants a careful examination by an experienced truck accident attorney. A lawyer from Blackburn Romey will gather all relevant facts and determine who owes you compensation for your damages.

The Sleeper Berth Provision and Truck Accidents


Reasons to Hire a Lawyer After a Truck Accident

Regardless of the details of your truck accident, it is worth speaking with a lawyer. An experienced truck accident attorney may advise you to pursue an insurance claim or a lawsuit, and our firm can assist you in either process.

Our firm will take essential (but potentially difficult) processes off of your hands, including:

  • Investigating your truck accident: Our team will work quickly to determine exactly what happened in your truck accident. We will interview witnesses, gather any evidence that could benefit your case, and keep a written record of our findings.
  • Ordering trucking companies to preserve evidence: One benefit of hiring our firm is that we understand legal procedures. We will file a letter to prevent spoliation as soon as possible, with this letter demanding that trucking companies preserve all evidence in their possession. 
  • Calculating and documenting your damages: Your lawyer from Blackburn Romey will help to determine the total amount of your damages. This includes any damages that you could suffer in the future because of your truck accident.
  • Seeking the settlement you deserve: Our team will represent you during settlement negotiations. These negotiations can become heated, but our firm remains composed and steadfast on our clients’ behalf. We will fight for every dollar you are entitled to.
  • Completing a trial: Though the American Bar Association (ABA) explains that the majority of civil cases settle, we never hesitate when our clients need us to go to trial.

There are many other tasks that we will handle in order to complete your case. From making phone calls to drafting paperwork and protecting you from insurers, we will handle the duties that your case requires. 


Damages That a Truck Accident Victim Can Seek Compensation For

Recoverable damages are unique to each motor vehicle accident victim, but common damages among truck accident victims include:

  • Pain and suffering: When a vehicle as large and heavy as a commercial truck strikes you or your vehicle, you are likely to feel emotional and psychological distress and physical pain. Injuries may also sap your quality of life, cause ongoing distress, and impose other types of pain and suffering.
  • Medical and other care expenses: You will need medical attention for accident-related injuries, and those services may prove costly. You may also need psychological counseling, medications, and other treatments for the non-medical consequences of your truck accident.
  • Professional harm: Professional harm from a truck accident may include lost income, lost earning power, loss of potential promotions and bonuses, loss of benefits, and other damages. Our team will determine the exact financial cost of your professional damages.
  • Property damage: Along with damage to your vehicle, a truck accident may also damage electronics, clothing, jewelry, accessories, and any other items inside of or attached to your vehicle. 

Tragically, truck accidents also cause a disproportionate number of wrongful deaths. Those who lose a loved one in a truck accident may deserve compensation for funeral expenses, grief counseling, lost companionship and guidance, lost financial support, and other damages.


Can I Afford a Truck Accident Attorney?

Our firm ensures that nobody misses out on legal representation because of their financial circumstances. Blackburn Romey:

  • Takes no upfront fee.
  • Advances case-related expenses
  • Consults with experts and takes any other steps that will improve your case.
  • Only receives a fee if we get money for you.

There is no out-of-pocket financial risk when you hire a lawyer from Blackburn Romey. We take the financial risk, and we receive a percentage of any money that we secure for you. This way, all parties can win benefit from our partnerships.


Don’t Wait to Call Blackburn Romey for a Free Consultation About Your Truck Accident

You may have a brief time to file your case. Indiana imposes a statute of limitations for truck accident cases, so we need to work quickly to get you compensation. Reach out to Blackburn Romey as soon as possible to complete your free consultation.

Tom Blackburn

Blackburn Romey founding partner Tom Blackburn graduated with honors receiving a degree from Indiana University at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Initiating his legal career in 1977, he has been active in practicing law and currently serves as a member of the Indiana State Bar Association on the Ethics and Advertising Committees, the American Bar Association, the American Association for Justice, as a board member at the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, and as an appointed member of the Executive Committee for the State of Indiana for the National Trial Lawyers Association.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Tom Blackburn, who has more than 47 years of legal experience, including over 39 years specializing as a personal injury attorney.