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Seminar reveals there's still education to do on Hours of Service

Participants in a seminar on Hours of Service at the mMid-America Trucking Show Thursday had a lot of questions about the 34-hour restart rule. (The Trucker file photo)

By LYNDON FINNEY
The Trucker Staff

3/22/2012

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — If you think there’s still education to be done about the new Final Rule on Hours of Service, you are correct.

Or at least that’s the assumption you would have carried away from a seminar on the subject Thursday afternoon at the Mid-America Trucking Show here Thursday afternoon.

The seminar featured a walkthrough of the new rule by an energetic John Seidl, an FMCSA investigator from Wisconsin, whose booming voice needed no amplification as he moved from point to point on the stage.

Seidl reiterated that the basis for the new rules was research, research, research.

“We did a lot of extended research” leading to the new rule, he said, which was designed to:

• Reduce the risk of driver fatigue

• Decrease the risk of fatigue-related crashes, and 

• Reduce the risk of fatigue-related health effects.

“Research shows health-related issues have an effect on crash risk,” he said in stressing the last point.

Much of the questioning on the 34-hour restart related to when a restart could begin, and while the new restart rule does not become effective until July 1, 2013, Seidl encouraged fleets and drivers to “start making that cultural change now.”

Research showed making a change as drastic as the new restart provision “shows you need to allow more time for such a change. You have to learn it,” Seidl said.

He said the new restart provision was designed to prevent truckers from working up to 84 hours during a seven-day period, which is possible under the current rule and allows a driver to begin a 34-restart period anytime he or she chooses.

Seidl recalled looking at the logbook of one trucker who took frequent restart periods and while driving legally wound up driving during each of the traditional first, second and third shift time periods during the week.

There’s no way the driver could not have become fatigued because of the circadian rhythm, Seidl reminded the audience.

Under the new rule, drivers can take a 34-hour restart only once every 168 hours, which will reduce the number of on-duty hours to around 70 in a one-week period.

The restart period must also include two 1 a.m.-5 a.m. time periods.

Taking the restart only once every 168 is “a huge difference,” Seidl said. “The purpose of the new restart provision is to reduce hours you can drive to reduce crash risk.”

Most of the questions about the restart centered around how to handle situations in which a driver takes off more than 34 consecutive hours.

In such a case, drivers can declare which portion of the time off should be counted as the restart period, “but remember that the period you declare must include two 1 a.m.-5 a.m. time periods and you can’t begin another restart until 168 hours have passed from the end of the restart period you declared,” Seidl said.

One trucker asked how to handle a situation when he took off 40 hours.

Should the first six hours of the 40 or the last six hours of the 40 be used as part of the 34-hour restart, the driver asked.

“If you want to claim the first six hours as part of the restart, the period between the end of your last restart and the beginning of the 40 hours you took off must have been at least 168 hours,” Seidl reminded the questioner.

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Seidl, himself, at one point became confused about the new rule that requires drivers to take a rest break no later than eight hours after going on duty.

“You can’t drive for more than eight hours before taking a break,” Seidl repeatedly told a questioner.

He was quickly corrected by a member of the audience that the new rule requires a break no more than eight hours after coming on-duty whether it’s all on-duty not driving, all driving, or a combination of both.

Seidl acknowledged his error.

“That’s why we have a frequently asked questions page,” he said, smiling.

There were other signs drivers still want to ask questions about the new rule: Seidl was standing outside the seminar room still talking to drivers almost an hour after the session ended.

The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at editor@thetrucker.com.

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