FMCSA Announces Final Rule on Commercial Driver Hours of Service

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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced an FMCSA final rule that revises the hours-of-service (HOS) safety requirements for commercial truck drivers. The rule goes into effect on July 1, 2013.

FMCSA said the rule will mainly affect drivers who work more than 70 hours a week on a continuing basis, mostly a subset of long-haul truckload drivers. Local drivers and less-than-truckload drivers, who rarely work more than 5 days a week, are unlikely to be affected.

The HOS final rule reduces by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week. Under the old rule, truck drivers could work on average up to 82 hours within a seven-day period. The new HOS final rule limits a driver’s work week to 70 hours. Truck drivers also cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Drivers can take the 30-minute break whenever they need rest during the eight-hour window.

The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit. FMCSA will continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time.

The rule requires truck drivers who maximize their weekly work hours to take at least two nights’ rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most – from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. This rest requirement is part of the rule’s “34-hour restart” provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. The final rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period.

Companies and drivers that commit egregious violations of the rule could face the maximum penalties for each offense. Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by 3 or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.