The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced its final rule on hours-of-service (HOS) regulations that govern work and rest periods for commercial truck drivers. Trucking companies and drivers have until July 1, 2013, to comply with the rule changes, which Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said “will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives.”
“Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” Mr. LaHood said in a statement. “Truck drivers deserve a work environment that allows them to perform their jobs safely.”
FMCSA’a new HOS 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 rule limits a driver’s work week to 70 hours.
- Truck drivers 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 considered reducing the daily driving limit to 10 hours, but the proposed change was hotly contested by the trucking industry. The agency says it will continue to research the 11-hour driving allowance and analyze risks.
- Truck drivers who maximize their weekly work hours must 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 caught egregiously violating HOS rules 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.
Prior to passing the final rule, FMCSA held six public hearings across the country and encouraged input from safety advocates, drivers, truck company owners, law enforcement, and the general public. The sessions were also aired on live webcasts for those who couldn’t attend in person.
“This final rule is the culmination of the most extensive and transparent public outreach effort in our agency’s history,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “With robust input from all areas of the trucking community, coupled with the latest scientific research, we carefully crafted a rule acknowledging that when truckers are rested, alert and focused on safety, it makes our roadways safer.”