For most truckers and DOT-licensed transport providers, Hours of Service are a big deal. Truckers have to pay close attention the amount of time they spend behind the wheel as one of the core requirements in maintaining compliance with federal transportation laws.
While the rules are designed to give drivers a much-needed break and are key to preventing fatigue-related accidents, any change in policy can affect the bottom line for the entire industry. Naturally, it’s often a point of conflict between the government, policy makers and owner-operators.
The Hours of Service rules underwent significant change in 2004 and have been somewhat controversial ever since. As CSA 2010 implementation begins to gain momentum, the FMCSA has announced a new set of changes that would modify the rules yet again.
- Limiting daily driving time to 10 hours instead of the current 11 hours
- Releasing drivers from duty after 14 consecutive hours, instead of current rules that allow drivers to continue on duty when not driving
- Giving drivers a one-hour mandatory break during the day by limiting actual time on duty to 13 hours, within the 14-hour driving window
- Limiting time elapsed behind the wheel by prohibiting a driver from operating if more than 7 hours have passed since the last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes.
- Modifying the 34-hour “restart” rule. New rule would have to include two periods of time between midnight and 6 a.m., and could only be used once a week.
- Changing the definition of “on-duty time.” This used to refer to any time spent inside the truck, with the exception of the sleeper berth. The new definition would also exempt any time spent resting in a parked truck, and up to two hours in the passenger seat of a moving truck immediately before/after eight hours in a sleeper berth.
- Revising rule exceptions for oilfield operations. Driver waiting time in that industry would no longer be included in calculation of the driving window.
Other key parts of Hours of Service will not change, including:
- Drivers must take off 10 consecutive hours per day
- Weekly limits for on-duty hours are 60 in 7 days, and 70 in 8 days
The proposed changes will be open to public comment before anything is set in stone.
Expect opinions on each of the seven proposed changes to vary– the American Trucking Association thus far has launched a public campaign to fight any of them from being implemented, fearing the rules would affect carrier profits– or even encourage unsafe driving as truckers attempt to meet tighter hauling schedules.