The long-awaited final rule on revised hours of service has been released, keeping the current 11-hour daily driving limit but cutting by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week.
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.
FMCSA says it will continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time.
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.
The rule will modify the 34-hour restart to include at least two nights' rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most - from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. (This is less restrictive than the proposed rule, which would have required drivers to shut down between midnight and 6 a.m.)
The final rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period.
Another change is in the definition of "on-duty time." The current rule defines it as any time in the truck except for in the sleeper. The new rule does not include any time resting in a parked commercial vehicle. In a moving CMV, on-duty time does not include up to two hours in passenger seat immediately before or after eight consecutive hours in the sleeper.
However, the changes to the definition do not allow drivers to count the time waiting to load or unload as off duty, unless a driver is released from all responsibility for the vehicle during that time.
Companies and drivers that commit egregious violations of the rule could face the maximum penalties for each offense -- and the new rule has a more specific definition of "egregious." 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.
Some provisions go into effect July 1, 2013. Others, including the change in the definition of "egregious" violations and the change in definition of on-duty time, go into effect Feb. 27, 2012.
"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."
Safety groups will likely balk at the 11-hour driving provision, which could lead to a new round of lawsuits, which the rule rewrite was supposed to put an end to.
The rule is being sent to the Federal Register today and is currently available on FMCSA's Web site at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/HOSFinalRule.