FMCSA revises driver hours of service rules
After years of debate and legal challenges, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a final rule revising the limits on maximum hours of service for drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles (CMVs).
After years of debate and legal challenges, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a final rule revising the limits on maximum hours of service for drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The FMCSA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The agency decided to retain the 11-hour driving limit within a 14-hour window of on-duty time, as well as the weekly limits of 60 or 70 hours (depending on whether the motor carrier operates 7 days a week) but made some significant changes in other areas, including a new requirement for 30-minute rest breaks. The rules take effect in two stages. First, effective on February 27, 2012, on-duty time doesnt include:
- Time spent resting in a parked vehicle (unless the driver is there to meet a requirement to be in attendance on a vehicle containing certain hazardous materials (explosives));
- Up to 2 hours riding in the passenger seat of a property-carrying vehicle moving on the highway immediately before or after a period of at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth; or
- Waiting time at a natural gas or oil well site for specially trained drivers of CMVs that are built to service oil wells. Also, these drivers can no longer take advantage of the 100 air-mile radius exception from keeping the record of duty status.
Second, the following provisions take effect on July 1, 2013, although you may implement them at any time on or after February 27, 2012:
- Mandatory 30-minute rest breaks: Drivers may drive only if 8 hours or less have passed since the end of the last off-duty break or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes. The break counts against the 14-hour driving window. For drivers who are required by FMCSA rules to be in attendance on a CMV containing explosives, the time in attendance is still counted as on-duty time, but as long as the driver doesnt perform any other work it will meet the requirements for the 30-minute rest break.
- Restrictions on the option to restart the maximum weekly hours by taking 34 consecutive hours off duty: Only one 34-hour restart is allowed per week (168 hours) and it must include two periods from 1:00 to 5:00 a.m. If a driver takes more than one off-duty period of 34 or more consecutive hours, the driver must note on the record of duty status which off-duty period is being used as the restart period.
In addition, if the driver exceeds the driving-time limits by more than 3 hours, the FMCSA will consider it to be an egregious violation of the rules, thus allowing the agency to impose the maximum penalties on the driver and motor carrier (76 Fed Reg 81134, Dec. 27, 2011).
Tips: A helpful Q&A and additional information is available on the FMCSA website. For more information about your employment-related obligations as a motor carrier, see our Legal Guide, Motor Carrier Safety Requirements (3146).