Hours Of Service Rule Changes

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a final rule amending the driver hours of service regulations. 76 Federal Register 81134 (December 27, 2011)

Except as noted below, the provisions of the new rule will not go into effect until July 1, 2013. Here are some items that could affect your drivers. Please read the final rule for the details on all the changes and the items that were retained.

11-Hour Driving Rule
The 11-hour daily driving limit was retained. They were considering dropping it to 10 hours.

30-Minute Breaks
The final rule prohibits a driver from driving a commercial motor vehicle if more than 8 hours on duty have passed since the last break (either off duty or sleeper berth time) of at least 30 minutes. The proposed rule had required a 30-minute break after 7 hours on duty before a driver could resume driving.

Under the final rule, for example, if the driver started driving immediately after coming on duty, he or she could drive for 8 consecutive hours, take a half-hour break, and then drive another 3 hours, for a total of 11 hours. If a driver worked in a warehouse or did other non-driving functions for 3 hours after coming on duty and then began driving, the driver would require a 30-minute break after 5 hours driving before being able to drive again. The driver could then drive 6 more consecutive hours for a total of 11 hours.

34-Hour Restart
The rule makes two changes to the 34-hour weekly restart provision. First, a driver may use the restart provision only once every week (defined as 168 consecutive hours). Second, the restart must include 34 consecutive hours off duty with two periods of 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. (The proposed rule would have required two periods from midnight to 6:00 a.m.). FMCSA made the change in the final rule because the 4-hour period includes the window when the circadian low occurs and gives drivers greater flexibility in ending and beginning the restart period.

14-Hour Driving Window
The maximum driving window will continue to be 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty. FMCSA dropped the proposed 13-hour limit for on-duty time within the 14 hours to simplify the rule. Because of the break provision, drivers will be able to work 13.5 hours in the 14 hour period (if they are driving after the 8th hour on duty).

Definition of On-Duty Time
The FMCSA amended the definition of on-duty time to exclude any time resting in a parked CMV. In a moving CMV, on-duty time does not include up to 2 hours in the passenger seat immediately before or after 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. In addition, the FMCSA has excluded from the definition of on-duty time any time spent resting in or on a parked CMV except as provided in § 397.5 for “attendance and surveillance of motor vehicles” by CMV drivers transporting Division 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3 explosives. This provision went into effect on February 27, 2012.

Driving (or allowing a driver to drive) 3 or more hours beyond the driving-time limit may be considered an egregious violation and is subject to enhanced civil penalties. This provision also went into effect on February 27, 2012.

(I want to thank Rick Schweitzer for providing the summaries shown above.)

If there are any questions, please contact me.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
Michael Dodd
GAWDA’s DOT, Security, OSHA & EPA Consultant Michael Dodd is president of MLD Safety Associates in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Members can reach him at 573-718-2887 and MLDSafety@hotmail.com.