Feds Release Final Truck Driver Hours of Service (HOS) Rule: 11 Hour Limit and More Changes


Feds Release Final Truck Driver Hours of Service (HOS) Rule: 11 Hour Limit and More Changes

Truck Drivers will have to obey new laws on how long they drive and how long they have to rest between trips, which means the roads will be safer for all of us.

After so much discussion and so much challenge by various factions of the trucking industry, the final version of the “HOS Rule” has been issued by the federal government.  The official announcement came on December 22, 2011, by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. You can read the full text of the new HOS Rule online at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Adminstration (FMCSA) site where it is available as a .pdf download.

What does the new Final HOS Rule Do? Here are some highlights:

  1. The Final Rule has kept the 11-hour per day driving limit that truck drivers now have to follow (which means that those fighting to cut that number back to 10 or lower lost here).
  2. Who’s working?  “On duty time” under the New Rule means any time spent in the truck itself except for the sleeper. It does not include up to 2 hours in the passenger seat right before or right after an 8 hour break in the sleeper when the truck is on the road.  It does not include time resting in a parked truck.   Truckers are on duty while they are waiting to load or unload unless their employer has officially released them from being on the job for the load/unload.
  3. Truck drivers moving big rig semi tractor trailer commercial trucks on American roads are not going to have the same work week:  the new rule takes away 12 hours from the total that a truck driver can be on the road in one week’s time.  That’s a day and a half — a big difference to the trucker and the trucking industry.  Total hours a truck driver can work in one week is now 70 hours, down from 82.
  4. Restarts can be used once every 7 days; under the New Rule, the truck driver gets 2 or more nights of rest between 1 and 5 o’clock in the morning, both changes to the old  restart rule.
  5. Under the New Rule, commercial truck drivers have to stop and take a break of 30 minutes or more after driving for 8 hours on the road.  If the trucker thinks they need that 30 minute break before hitting that 8-hour mark, then they are free to take a break within that 8 hour block as well.

Official Announcement from the Department of Transportation:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced a final rule that employs the latest research in driver fatigue to make sure truck drivers can get the rest they need to operate safely when on the road. The new rule by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revises the hours-of-service (HOS) safety requirements for commercial truck drivers.

“Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives. Truck drivers deserve a work environment that allows them to perform their jobs safely.”

As part of the HOS rulemaking process, FMCSA held six public listening sessions across the country and encouraged safety advocates, drivers, truck company owners, law enforcement and the public to share their input on HOS requirements. The listening sessions were live webcast on the FMCSA Web site, allowing a broad cross-section of individuals to participate in the development of this safety-critical rule.

“This final rule is the culmination of the most extensive and transparent public outreach effort in our agency’s history,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “With robust input from all areas of the trucking community, coupled with the latest scientific research, we carefully crafted a rule acknowledging that when truckers are rested, alert and focused on safety, it makes our roadways safer.”

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 final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit. FMCSA will continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time.

The rule requires truck drivers who maximize their weekly work hours 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 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. The final rule allows 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 3 or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves 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 rule is being sent to the Federal Register today and is currently available on FMCSA’s Web site at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/HOSFinalRule.


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