Federal Agency Releases New Trucking Hours-Of-Service Regulations

After two years of study and deliberation, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has released its new ruling on how many hours a truck driver can work. Known as the Hours of Service of Drivers Final Rule, the regulations reflect new data on driver fatigue and safety, though not all organizations are happy about the changes. These changes will hopefully keep driver fatigue in check – thus limiting the dangers of trucking accidents - and are sure to impact areas high trucking traffic such as northern California, especially the Bay Area.

The Original Proposal

In 2010, the FMSCA announced that it was going to look into changing the amount of hours truckers could drive in a day and in a week. The original proposal included the following provisions:

  • Reduce the hours in the driving window from 14 hours to 10 or 11 hours
  • Reduce the maximum hours a trucker can drive in a day from 11 hours to 10 hours
  • Change the 34-hour restart rule to include two periods between midnight and 6 a.m.
  • Require drivers to take at least a half-hour break once every shift
  • Allow in-cab resting time to count as off-duty time
  • Require the maximum penalty for violation of time limit regulations by three hours or more

After a year of research, including a comment session for the public to weigh in on the proposal, the FMCSA has issued its new rule.

The Final Rule

The FMCSA believes its final rule reflects both public input and data relating to driver safety and fatigue. It includes the following provisions:

  • Maintains the 14 hour daily driving window
  • Maintains the 11 hour daily driving limit
  • Changes the 34-hour restart rule to include at least two overnight periods between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. to accommodate overnight drivers – this rule can be used once per week
  • Requires drivers to take a rest break of at least half an hour after 8 hours of consecutive driving
  • Allows in-cab resting time to count as off-duty time, including two hours of passenger-seat riding
  • Requires the maximum penalty for violation of time limit regulations by three hours or more

Though the FMSCA claims its rules were changed to reflect new safety and fatigue data, they have met with criticism from both safety groups and trade organizations.

The Truck Safety Coalition calls the lack of change to the daily driving limit “dangerous” and denies the FMCSA’s claim that no change will help reduce driver fatigue. It also notes that the 70-hour work week possible is still much higher than the average 40-hour week most Americans serve even though truck driving is more dangerous than most other occupations.

On the other side of the debate, the Retail Industry Leaders Association believes the new rules go too far. The association represents retail companies that use trucks to transport their goods across the country. It claims the new rules will cause inefficiencies in the shipping process, increase costs and lead to more congestion on the nation’s roadways.

The new truck driver hours-of-service rules went into effect on February 27, with full compliance required by July 1, 2013.

With the implementation of these new rules, hopefully the FMCSA has created a good balance between business needs and highway safety, but unfortunately driver fatigue and the resulting truck accidents will inevitably still occur. If you or a loved one has been the victim of an accident involving truck driver fatigue, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to be advised of your rights and options.

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