Hours of Service Proposal Hits Drivers

Truck DriverOn December 29, 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a new proposal for drivers’ hours of service (HOS) that impacts daily driving limits, daily on-duty period and weekly restart requirements for commercial vehicle operators. Within the proposal are a number of changes that would require reconfiguration of dispatch and driver management protocols for distributors.

Daily Driving Limits and Breaks
Under the proposal, the FMCSA is considering reducing the daily driving limit from 11 hours to 10 hours. The agency states that it is considering both possibilities but strongly prefers the 10-hour daily driving limit.

To avoid long periods of consecutive operation, the proposed rule says that a driver may only drive if it has been seven hours or less since a break of at least 30 minutes logged off-duty or in the sleeper berth. Thus, the 10-hour daily driving limit, if adopted, would have to be broken up by at least one rest break of at least 30 minutes.

The break time requirement applies to all on-duty time, not just driving time. Accordingly, a driver that logs on duty and works in the fill plant for three hours would then only be able to drive for a maximum of four hours before needing a break of at least 30 minutes.

Daily On-Duty Period and Driving Window
The HOS proposal would further reduce the available daily period in which a driver may operate a commercial motor vehicle. Although the proposal would not change the 14-hour daily limit in which a driver may operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV), the proposal introduces a new term, the “driving window.”

The driving window is a 14-hour period in which a driver must complete all on-duty work-related activities; but the effective on-duty period is 13 hours. This uses the 14-hour daily driving window but requires at least a 1 hour of break time within that 14-hour period, effectively limiting the available period in which a driver may drive or accomplish on-duty non-driving tasks to 13 hours.

Once again, this change would require companies to manage their drivers’ time and tasks more effectively to incorporate the 1 hour of required breaks within the 14-hour daily driving window. Because of the effect on a driver’s available driving time, some trips or deliveries might require rescheduling if the destination is not reachable within the 13-hour available period.
The FMCSA proposal does provide some new flexibility in this area, however. Drivers may extend the 14-hour daily driving window to 16 hours two times a week to account for waiting time or other delays. But this does not change the 13-hour available on-duty period. If a driver extends the daily on-duty time to 16-hours, 3 hours of that time must be rest time. Thus, if a driver spends four hours waiting to unload and unloading a vehicle, the driver must complete the return trip within the 13-hour available on-duty period even if the total time since the driver first logged in does not exceed 16 hours.

Weekly Reset Provision
The FMCSA’s proposal retains the “34-hour restart” provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their weekly 60 or 70 hours by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. But the restart period would have to include two consecutive off-duty periods from midnight to 6:00 a.m. Moreover, drivers would be allowed to use this restart only once during a seven-day period, and would have to designate in their records of duty status when the 34-hour period begins.

Change in On-duty Time
Among the outlined changes, the FMCSA also proposes to exclude time spent in a parked CMV from the definition of “on-duty” time.

The current proposed rulemaking allows 60 days for public comments ending February 28, 2011. For reference, the agency has published a chart comparing the changes included in the proposed rulemaking to the existing rule. While the rulemaking is proceeding, the current hours of service rules remain in effect. A final rule is expected by July 2011.

On The Edge
What do you think of the new hours of service proposal? Are you in favor or against going to a 10-hour driving limit? How will these rules impact your company and your drivers?

Let us know by leaving a comment below, then be sure to submit your comments to FMCSA.

What does the trucking industry have to say about the proposal? American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves speaks out about the new proposal.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association

Richard P. Schweitzer Meet the Author
GAWDA’s Government Affairs & Human Resources Legal Consultant Richard P. Schweitzer, Esq., is president of Richard P. Schweitzer, PLLC in Washington, D.C. Members can reach him at 202-223-3040 and rpschweitzer@rpslegal.com.