DOT Issues Hours of Service (HOS) Final Rule

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has published the long awaited Hours of Service of Drivers' Final Rule. The new definition of on-duty time is effective February 27, 2012. The definition is revised to allow a team driver to log as off duty up to 2 hours spent in the passenger seat either immediately before or after the 8-hour period in the sleeper berth. Additionally, time spent resting in or on a parked commercial motor vehicle is excluded from the definition of on-duty time. Compliance for all other rule changes is not required until July 1, 2013. The purpose of the rule is to reduce the possibility of driver fatigue by limiting, on a continuing basis, the ability of drivers to work the maximum number of hours currently allowed, or close to the maximum. Long daily and weekly hours are associated with an increased risk of crashes and with the chronic health conditions associated with lack of sleep. The rule purports to reduce the risk of fatigue and fatigue related crashes, as well as harm to driver health. The following summarizes some of the rule's more significant provisions:

Daily Driving Time Limit - NPGA successfully voiced objection to FMCSA's proposed change to limit daily driving time to 10 hours. The current 11-hour daily driving time limit is unchanged.

60/70-Hour On-Duty Limit - The 60- and 70-hour limits are also unchanged. A driver may not drive after 60-hours on duty in 7 consecutive days, or 70-hours in 8 consecutive days.

14-Hour Driving Window - The maximum driving window will continue to be 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty.

34-Hour Restart - FMCSA is revising the HOS regulations to limit the use of the 34-hour restart provision to once every 168 hours (7 days). On average, this will cut the maximum work week from 82 to 70 hours. The new rule also requires that drivers working long enough to need a restart take off 34-consecutive hours that includes two night periods from 1am to 5am Only drivers who drive nights or work more than 60 or 70 hours in a week will be affected.

30-Minute Break - The rule includes a provision that allows truckers to drive if they have had a break of at least 30 minutes, at a time of their choosing, sometime within the previous 8 hours. However, the final rule requires that if more than 8 consecutive hours on duty have passed since the last off-duty (or sleeper-berth) period of at least half an hour, a driver must take a break of at least 30 minutes before driving. For example, if the driver started driving immediately after coming on duty, he or she could drive for 8 consecutive hours, take a half-hour break, and then drive another 3 hours, for a total of 11 hours. Alternatively, a driver could drive for 3 hours, take a half-hour break, and then drive another 8 hours, for a total of 11 hours. In other words, this driver could take the required break anywhere between the 3rd and 8th hour after coming on duty. A driver who plans to drive until the end of the 14th hour and wants to take only one break will need to take a break between the 6th and 8th hour after coming on duty. Drivers will have great flexibility in deciding when to take their break. By postponing the latest point at which the break can be taken from the 7th to the 8th hour, the rule will make it significantly easier for team drivers to fit their break into their schedules.

Team Driving - A team driver may log as off duty up to 2 hours in the passenger seat of a moving vehicle immediately before or after an 8-hour period in the sleeper berth. Should you have any question or require additional information, please contact Robert Elliott at 202-355-1321.



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