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Hours of Service

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On December 16, 2014, President Obama enacted a $1 trillion “cromnibus” spending bill which included a suspension of certain Hours of Service (HOS) rules for truck drivers for one year. Truck drivers no longer need to take at least two nights’ rest from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. during their weekly work hours nor are they restricted to taking a 34 hour restart period within 7 days or 168 hours. This was a boon for industry lobbying organizations like the American Trucking Association (ATA) and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA).

Additionally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has an ongoing study to investigate the effect of fatigue on safety performance levels of truck drivers. Truck drivers who take two nighttime rest periods during their 34-hour restart break are being compared to drivers who take less than two rest periods during their restart break. Drivers are recruited and paid to navigate their usual route while being assessed on their fatigue, level of alertness, safety during critical events, and overall health. Results from this study will improve knowledge and future legislation concerning rest periods and driver safety.

The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) quantified the impacts of the FMCSA’s HOS rules in its 2013 article Operational and Economic Impacts of the New Hours of Service. The report indicated that 80% of motor carriers show a loss of productivity due to the new rules and driver pay impacts were estimated to vary from $1.6 billion to $3.9 billion annually. The ATRI also indicated that HOS issues ranked #1 in their data on industry issues prioritization.

Background

The HOS rule under which the industry currently operates was first issued in 2005. It was reissued as an interim final rule in 2007, as a final rule in 2008, and after legal challenges, it was settled that a new final rule would be issued by July 26, 2011. The agency missed its deadline and did not produce the new final rule until December 22, 2011.

A summary of the long-anticipated new final rule on hours of service is as follows:

  • The final rule retained an 11-hour daily driving limit. Drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 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 HOS final rule reduced by 12 hours the maximum time a truck driver can work within a week. Previously, truck drivers could work up to 82 hours within a seven-day period. The new rule limits a driver's work week to 60 hours after seven consecutive days and 70 hours after eight consecutive days.
  • To maximize their weekly work hours, truck drivers were required 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 a "34-hour restart" provision that mandated drivers restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. The final rule allowed drivers to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period.*
  • Companies and drivers that commit egregious violations of the rule could face the maximum penalties for each offense. Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by three or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and drivers could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.
  • Commercial truck drivers and companies must comply with the HOS final rule by July 1, 2013.
*The enforcement of this requirement was suspended by The Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015, legislated on December 16, 2014.

A summary of the FMCSA’s HOS final rule is available here.

The FMCSA's most recent HOS final rule as it appears in the Federal Register is available here.

Prior to the 2011 new HOS rule, FMCSA published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) governing driver HOS in December 2010. Under the proposal, drivers would have been limited to driving either 10 or 11 hours within a given window. The standard driving period would be 14 hours, but drivers were allowed to extend the window to 16 hours twice a week to accommodate additional rest or unanticipated driving conditions. Drivers would have been allowed to drive only if seven or fewer hours had passed since their last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes. The 34-hour restart would be retained but had to include two periods between midnight and 6 a.m., to be used once every seven days or 168 hours.

Challenges to FMCSA’s new HOS rule have been ongoing. On March 15, 2012, ATA filed a statement of issues with the Court identifying the four “arbitrary and capricious” provisions in the HOS rule to be challenged. Those provisions included: the 34-hour restart requiring two consecutive rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.; the requirement that the restart be limited to one use per week; the specification that a mandatory 30-minute break from driving also exclude all other on-duty activity; and narrowing, without prior notice, certain exceptions to driver-time regulations for local delivery drivers.

Additional Information:

FMCSA HOS Information

FMCSA HOS Restart Study

HOS Docket at Regulations.gov

American Transportation Research Institute

TCA Policy: Hours of Service

2011 Final Rule



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