Associated Equipment Distributors

FMCSA Releases New Limits on Trucker Hours Behind the Wheel

On Dec. 22, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) unveiled its final hours of service rule (HOS) which establishes new regulations limiting the amount of time commercial drivers can spend behind the wheel.

FMCSA’s final rule reduces the amount of time a trucker can spend on the road by 12 hours a week, limiting drivers to a 70-hour workweek and requiring at least a 30-minute break after working eight hours. The rule kept the current 11-hour daily driving limit in place.

The regulation also 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. This is a challenge for drivers in the highway construction industry where much of the work is done at night.

According to FMCSA, the new rule “does not change existing regulatory exemptions or exceptions.” Thus, for example, special HOS reset rules for the construction industry are not affected. 49 CFR 395.1(m) states that, “In the instance of a driver of a commercial motor vehicle who is used primarily in the transportation of construction materials and equipment, any period of 7 or 8 consecutive days may end with the beginning of any off-duty period of 24 or more successive hours.” However, the new rule made adjustments to regulations relating to short-haul trucking operations (49 CFR 395.1(e)) to harmonize them with the new maximum driving times.

Commercial trucking companies and drivers must comply with the rule by July 1, 2013.

A summary of the proposed rule change and more information is available from the FMCSA’s website.

The rule change is prompted by a court settlement between the FMCSA and the Teamsters and Public Citizen. AED, like many in the business and trucking communities, believe the change is unnecessary and imposes significant regulatory burdens on employers and drivers while failing to address safety concerns.

Senate Committee Approves Bill Requiring HOS Monitoring
The Senate Commerce Science & Transportation Committee approved the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Enhancement Act (S. 1950) on Dec. 14 by a party line vote, 13-11 with Democrats prevailing over Republican objections.

The bill would mandate the installation of electronic surveillance equipment in commercial trucks to monitor the time drivers spend on the road for compliance with federal HOS rules. Additionally, the legislation includes a host of other regulatory burdens and reporting requirements, including establishing minimum entry-level training requirements for commercial drivers, setting uniform standards for commercial driver’s licenses, and creating a national database for records relating to drug and alcohol violations of commercial motor vehicle operators.

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