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BREAKING NEWS: FMCSA leaves daily driving limit at 11 hours in new HOS rule

The FMCSA retained most of the proposed restrictions on the 34-hour restart provision, but narrowed the overnight timeframe from six to four hours. (The Trucker file photo)

By LYNDON FINNEY
The Trucker Staff

12/22/2011

WASHINGTON — In what has to be a surprise to most trucking industry stakeholders, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Thursday has retained the 11-hour driving day.

Many industry insiders and media had predicted that when the agency issued the final rule on Hours of Service Thursday, it would have included a 10-hour driving day that the FMCSA said it preferred when it issued the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Dec. 23, 2010. The FMCSA said it kept the 11-hour limit after examining many studies on the relationship between work hours and health and safety, both in trucking and other industries; reviewing the comments and information submitted to the docket, mostly in opposition to a 10-hour driving limit and completing elaborate analyses in accordance with Presidential Executive Order 13563 of the costs and benefits to health and safety of 9-, 10-, and 11-hour driving limits.

In the absence of compelling scientific evidence demonstrating the safety benefits of a 10-hour driving limit, as opposed to an 11-hour limit, and confronted with strong evidence that an 11-hour limit could well provide higher net benefits, the agency said it concluded that adequate and reasonable grounds under the Administrative Procedure Act for adopting a new regulation on this issue do not exist and that the current driving limit should therefore be allowed to stand for now.

However, the new rule does reduce 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 work week to 70 hours, which appears to penalize long-haul drivers, many of whom work six or seven days a week.

The agency did retain the portion of the proposed rulemaking that restricts the use of the 34-hour restart provision to one time a week. But it adjusted the parameters from the proposed rulemaking somewhat. The proposed rulemaking required truckers to include two consecutive 12 midnight to 6 a.m. rest periods. The final rule narrows the rest window by two hours, requiring the two nights include 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods.

FMCSA’s new HOS final rule 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 work week to 70 hours.  

In addition, 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 proposed rulemaking said drivers could not drive after seven hours.

Commercial truck drivers and companies must comply with portions of the rule by Feb. 27, 2012 (on duty time rule) and by July 1, 2013, for the 34-hour restart change and the rest break rule.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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