FMCSA Releases New Final Rule
The long wait is over! On December 22nd the U.S. Department of Transportation released a final rule that revises the interstate hours-of-service regulations. The new rule contains five substantive changes that are of consequence to our readers. The mandatory compliance dates are February 27, 2012 for some of the provisions and July 1, 2013 for the others. Carriers and drivers may voluntarily comply with the new rule now (it was published in the Federal Register on December 27, 2011) and in some cases it may be beneficial to do so.
What Did Not Change?
v The maximum driving time remains at 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty
v The 14 consecutive hour window remains unchanged
v The 60 hours in 7 days and 70 hours in 8 days rules remain
v The 34 hour restart provision remains…with newly imposed limitations
What Did Change?
Rest Breaks – Although the 11 hour driving rule was retained, the new rule does not permit a driver to drive 11 hours straight. The new rule adds the following language to 49CFR 395.1, “After June 30, 2013, however, driving is permitted only if 8 hours or fewer have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty break or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes”. So there’s the first major change. A required 30 minute break somewhere between the 3rd and the 8th hour after coming on-duty and then a driver may drive the remainder of their 11 hours.
Limitations on 34 Hour Restarts – The 34 hour restart provision (to reset a driver’s 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days) remains unchanged through June 30, 2013. Beginning July 1, 2013 the following limitations are added.
v The minimum 34 hours off-duty must include two periods between 1 AM and 5 AM
v The 34 hour restart may only be used once per week (168 consecutive hours from the beginning of the previous restart)
Definition of On-Duty Time – The current hours-of-service rule requires that all time spent in or upon a commercial motor vehicle be recorded as on-duty. The new rule excludes two specific activities from that definition.
v Time spent resting in or on a parked vehicle
v Up to 2 hours riding in the passenger seat of a property-carrying vehicle moving on the highway immediately before or after a period of at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth
The first of these changes (time spent resting in or on a parked vehicle) means that a driver may spend off-duty time in the truck (sometimes the most comfortable place to be) without being confined to the sleeper berth. The second change (up to 2 hours riding in the passenger seat) allows a team driver to climb out of the sleeper after 8 hours and still remain off-duty for an additional 2 hours.
Penalties – The new rule amends Part 386 by defining an Egregious Violation of Driving Time Limits and allowing for the imposition of maximum penalties for those violations. A driver who exceeds and a motor carrier that requires or permits a driver to exceed the driving time limits by more than 3 hours are deemed to have committed an egregious violation. The maximum penalties are $2,750 for each offense for a driver and $11,000 for each offense for a motor carrier. The compliance date is February 27, 2012.
Oilfield Exemption – The current regulations state that specially trained drivers of commercial motor vehicles which are specially constructed to service oil wells need not include waiting time at natural gas or oil well sites as on-duty time and that all such time shall be accounted for in records maintained by the motor carrier. The new rule requires that “Waiting Time” be shown on the driver’s log (or electronic equivalent) as off-duty and identified by annotations in “Remarks” or a separate line added to the grid. The compliance date is February 27, 2012.
The Bottom Line
The hours-of-service regulations have been challenged in federal district court three times since 2003. Safety advocacy groups, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, trucking associations, motor carriers and individual drivers have all objected to the rule for their own reasons.
We, at Right Lane Consulting, understand your frustration with the constantly changing regulations. We can’t know, with any degree of certainty, what the future will bring. We do know that commercial vehicle/driver inspections are still being performed and carrier and driver safety data is being collected on a daily basis. Staying current on regulatory changes may require a bit more time and effort right now but it’s the best way to protect your bottom line.