Times, they are a-changing. We have better roads, better vehicles, and better drivers. Due to these changes, many issues in the trucking industry have come under scrutiny. Most recently, it is the hours-of-service regulations that have been in the spotlight.
HOS are regulations issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that govern the working hours of anyone operating a commercial motor vehicle. The rules limit the number of daily and weekly hours drivers spend on the road and the minimum amount of time drivers must rest between hauls or shifts. All drivers are required to keep a log of working hours, which is checked by DOT officers at weigh stations or by the highway patrol during stops. While some drivers use a paper logbook, others can use an electronic-on-board recorder (EOBR), which automatically records the amount of time spent driving. Because of the inconsistencies between these two methods of tracking HOS, there is some debate recently as to whether all motor carriers should use an EOBR.
The HOS rules have changed over the years, most recently in 2011. The Department of Transportation decided to take another look at the regulations and lop off a chunk of the number of hours a driver can spend behind the wheel in a week. The impetus behind the changes was a closer look at the impact of driver fatigue. The FMCSA states that the number of hours spent driving has a strong correlation to the number of fatigue-related accidents. According to numerous studies, the risk of fatigue is also greatest between the hours of midnight and six in the morning, and increases with the total length of the driver’s trip. So the redesign of the HOS was intended to prevent more accidents or injuries due to driver fatigue.
The final rule was released in 2011. It 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 HOS final rule limits a driver’s workweek to 70 hours. In addition, truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes.
The rule requires truck drivers who maximize their weekly work hours to 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 workweek by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.
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, but that could also change, as the FMCSA continues to analyze further risks associated with driving 11 hours per day.
The deadline for compliance is fast approaching. Commercial truck drivers and companies must comply with the HOS final rule by July 1, 2013.
The FMSCA said that the objective of the rule is to reduce both acute and chronic fatigue by limiting the maximum number of hours per day and week that the drivers can work.
In addition, the rule limits the use of the “34-hour restart” to once a week, or 168 hours. If restarts are taken every 6 days, alternating 14 hours on-duty and 10 hours off, a driver would reach 70 hours in less than 5 full days. After a 34-hour break, the driver could then begin this same cycle again, totaling 70 hours on-duty every 6 calendar days, for an average of almost 82 hours per calendar week. So the purpose of the restart rule would be to limit excessive buildup of on-duty hours.
The American Trucking Association flew into action after the rule was proposed, saying it puts onerous restrictions on the driver’s ability to manage their schedules. The ATA claims there is simply no data to support the changes.
“The existing rules have a proven track record, and the agency’s purported reasons for tinkering with them were baseless,” ATA General Counsel Prasad Sharma said in an article on TruckingInfo.com. “We’re hopeful the judges will see through the agency’s mere pleas for deference and after-the-fact explanations for a rule that was agenda-driven rather than evidence-based.”
FMCSA recently denied a request by the ATA to delay the start of the new rules from its scheduled July 1 implementation.
How do you think the new HOS rules will affect the industry and you as a driver? Please comment below!