For long-haul truckers, the ideal safety strategy is a rested, refreshed and alert driver. It’s the only real way to prepare for whatever happens on the road.
Road safety is also the reason the federal government limits driver’s hours-of-service (HOS). You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that too many consecutive hours without a rest break cause the chances of a serious accident go way up.
With that in mind, some changes have been underway for the trucking industry, and the compliance deadline is fast approaching—important updates to the federal rules regarding driver HOS.
Starting July 1, the last final rule provisions from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) go into effect governing trucker HOS.
FMSCA used six public listening sessions to help develop the new regulations, calling on a wide range of experts, as well as the newest research into driver fatigue.
New rules on hours driven in a workweek
The final rules on HOS reduce the maximum time drivers can work within a week by 12 hours. Previously, they could drive up to an average of up to 82 hours within a seven-day period.
Now a driver workweek is limited to no more than 70 hours.
The first definitions for on-duty times became effective February 2012. July 1 is the final compliance date for the remainder of the new rules.
Revised definitions for on-duty time
Under the new rules, team drivers must log as off-duty up to 2 hours in the passenger seat, either directly before or after the 8-hour time spent in the sleeper berth.
Additionally, time drivers spend resting in or on a parked commercial vehicle is not considered on-duty time.
New insights into driver safety are the reason for the change in regulations. Designed to reduce the risk of driver fatigue, the rules limit the number of hours worked, either close to or at the maximum. Long daily and weekly hours lead to an increased risk of accidents, as well as chronic health conditions brought on by lack of sleep.
The main purpose of the rule change is to reduce the risk of fatigue and related collisions. In addition, it hopes to curb the negative effects on driver health after long hours on the road.
Rest periods when the body needs the most rest
To maximize weekly work hours, drivers need to take a minimum two nights rest when from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.—the time when research shows that the body needs sleep the most. This is now part of a “34-hour restart” provision, which can allow drivers to “restart” their workweek by taking a minimum of 34 consecutive hours off-duty. This restart provision can be used only once during a seven-day period.
Truck drivers cannot work eight hours without taking at least a 30-minute break first. However, at any time during the eight-hour window, drivers can get a 30-minute break.
The current 11-hour daily driving limit remains in effect. FMCSA continues to conduct data analysis, and research to assess the risks associated with 11 consecutive hours of driving.
A summary of some of the major provisions covered in the July 1 compliance deadline:
- 14-hour duty limit. A driver can be on duty 14 consecutive hours, after being off duty for 10 or more consecutive hours.
- 11-hour driving limit. Drivers can only operate for up to 11 hours during a 14-consecutive-hour duty period.
- 60/70-hour duty limit. Drivers cannot drive after being on duty 60 hours during any 7 consecutive days, OR they cannot drive after being on duty 70 hours during any eight consecutive days.
- 34-hour restart. The 60- or 70-hour calculations can be “restarted” after at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.
Violators face hefty fines
Drivers and companies that largely ignore these new rules could face up penalties for each offense. Companies allowing drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by more than three hours could pay up to $11,000 per violation. Individual drivers could also face civil penalties—up to $2,750 for each offense.
The complete list of the provisions of the final rule is on the FMCSA Web site at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/HOSFinalRule.