Hours of Service main concern heading into 2014

Nov 08, 2013

In late December, 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published its new hours-of-service rule. While this policy was formed nearly two years ago, compliance was split between two deadlines: the effective date of February 27, 2012 which applied to all commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) and, more recently, July 1 of this year which dictates policy only for property-carrying CMVs.

Earlier this week, in Florida, the American Transportation Research Institute revealed the top ten issues that are facing the North American trucking industry as the new year approaches. With the full extent of the new hours-of-service policy having started July, 2013, and the ripples this has been sending through the industry, it is no surprise that this concern tops the list followed, respectively, by: the FMCSA Compliance, Safety, Accountability program, driver shortage, the economy, and the recent electronic logging mandate.

The reasoning behind the mounted concern of this new policy is due to provisions that place limits on 34-hour restarts and rest breaks. In the prior policy, there was no ruling on 34-hour restarts. However, as of summer 2013, there must be two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. and can only be utilized once in a 168 hour period; i.e. 7 days. This new ruling effectively reduces possible driving hours in a week from an average of 82 down to a maximum of 70. While safety advocates are lauding this new rule for the possibility of safer roadways, fleet managers and operators are worried about the annual reduction of 624 hours per driver (for the sake of comparison, there are 730 hours on average, per month). A decrease in available hours means that fleets will have to offset the impact by either increasing payload size or hiring more drivers. Unfortunately, both of these options are costly; heavier payload will result in higher fuel costs, and on-boarding new drivers will create an additional salary, add the expenses of on-boarding, and additionally increase fleet fuel consumption. In addition to this, the new hours-of-service policy stipulates that a driver rest for at least 30 minutes every 8 hours of driving.

Even though this hours-of-service policy was fully effective July 1, 2013, legal proceedings began months prior and have reached federal appeals court to nix several provisions, including the aforementioned 34-hour restart restriction, and 30-minute break requirements. A summary of the hours-of-service rules for both property- and passenger-carrying drivers are as follows:

Property-Carrying Drivers:

11-Hour Driving Limit

Fleet drivers are allowed a maximum 11 hours behind the wheel only after 10 consecutive hours off duty.

14-Hour Limit

The 11 hours of driving must be completed in a 14 hour window.

Rest Breaks

A 30 minute rest must be taken after 8 consecutive hours of driving.

 60/70-Hour Limit

A maximum 60/70 hours of driving in a 7/8 day period. Upon reaching the limit, drivers are required to take at least 34 hours off duty. These 34 hours must include the 28 hours from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. the following day and can only be used once every 168 hours.

Passenger-Carrying Drivers:

10-Hour Driving Limit

Drivers have a maximum of 10 hours of driving after 8 consecutive off duty hours.

 15-Hour Limit

This is the same as the Property-Carrying Drivers' 14-Hour Limit, but with an additional hour.

 60/70-Hour Limit

Fleet Operators can only drive for 60/70 hours in a consecutive 7/8 day period.

Sleeper Berth Provision

Drivers operating vehicles with an equipped sleeper berth may accumulate 8 consecutive hours in the berth to satisfy the off duty hours requirement or can split into two periods of rest provided that neither period is less than two hours and that driving time surrounding each period does not exceed both the 10-hour driving limit and 15-Hour Limit rules.

Read the full hours-of-service policy to become familiar with how regulations have changed for the transportation industry.