In December of 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published revised hour of service rules that apply to motor carriers and commercial motor vehicle drivers. The new rules became effective in February of 2012, although full compliance is not required until July 1, 2013. Since the enactment of the new rules, there have been disagreements between proponents of the new rule and those who are in opposition to the rule.
In February of 2012, a lawsuit was filed by two truck drivers, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Public Citizen, and the Truck Safety Coalition. The suit seeks judicial review of the hour of service regulations, claiming the final rule does not reduce the 11-hour limit on consecutive driving to ten hours despite the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s acknowledgment that the ten hour rule is the preferred option.
Also in February of 2012, the American Trucking Association filed a petition in the Federal District Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia challenging the new rule. Bill Graves, the American Trucking Association president, observed:
The rules that have been in place since 2004 have contributed to unprecedented improvements in highway safety.
Graves states that the cost of the new rule outweighs the benefits noting that speed is a greater highway concern than fatigue. While speed is a problem, driver fatigue is a major safety issue. The Director of the Federal Motor Safety Administration calls the Hour of Service Rule change, “the culmination of the most extensive and transparent public outreach effort in our agency’s history.” The revised rules are set out below:
• It limits the use of the “34 hour restart,” to once a week. This purpose of this change is to limit work to no more than 70 hours a week on average. Working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue, a high risk of crashes, and a number of serious chronic health conditions in drivers.
• Truck drivers cannot work after 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 new rues retain the current 11 hour daily driving limit. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will continue to conduct data analysis and research and to further examine any risk associated with the 11 hours of driving time.
• The rule that requires truck drivers to maximize their weekly work hours to take at least two nights rest when their 24 hour body clock demands sleep the most. That is, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration research, from 1 am to 5 am. This rest required is part of the rule’s “34 hour restart” provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.
• On duty time does not include any time resting in a parked vehicle. In a moving vehicle, on duty time does not include up to two hours in the passenger seat immediately before or after eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth. This provision provides team drivers an opportunity to “keep the truck moving” by having driver “A” drive for ten hours while driver “B” obtains a full daily rest period without having to stay in the sleeper berth for ten straight hours.
• Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11 hour driving limit by three or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense.
• Drivers who violate the hour of service rule could face a civil penalty of up to $2,750 for each offense.
The Court has consolidated the two lawsuits mentioned above and they are still pending. To date there has been no resolution of the issue. We will keep you advised on this subject. If you need additional information on the subject, contact Mike Crow at 800-898-2034 or by Mike.Crow@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website and truckinginfo.com
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