The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Tuesday announced its final hours of service rule, and they remain unchanged from the "interim" rule the trucking industry has been working under.

Truck drivers are limited to driving for only 11 hours and working for no more than 14 hours each day. The final rule is based on an exhaustive scientific review and designed to ensure truck drivers get the necessary rest to perform safe operations and the quality of life they deserve, the agency's Administrator, John Hill, noted.

The agency said it consulted with scientific and medial researchers, reviewed existing fatigue research and worked with organizations like the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies and the National Institute for Occupational Safety in setting the final rules.

The rule will become effective Jan. 19, 2009, the day before the current administration leaves office. Hill said he was confident the final rule would stand up to a court challenge because the agency had appropriately addressed all concerns raised by the courts.

Public Citizen has been fighting the rule in court since it was first announced in 2005.

In July 2007, the court remanded the Hours of Service rules to FMCSA, ruling that the agency must provide better explanations of its justifications for adopting the 11-hour drive time and 34-hour restart provisions of the rule. In December, FMCSA announced that in was keeping the 11-hour and the 34-hour provisions in an Interim Final Rule. In January, a federal appeals court denied Public Citizen's request to invalidate the Interim Final Rule.

He added that the new federal rule requires all truck drivers to spend at least 10 hours resting between shifts before being allowed back on the road. Drivers also cannot operate a truck if they have worked more than 60 hours in a given week. Drivers that rest for at least 34 hours can also reset their weekly work schedule.

"These rules are crafted to match what we know about drivers' circadian rhythms and the real world work environment truckers face every day," said Hill.

Observers say it's quite possible that Public Citizen will take FMCSA back to court. The question will be whether or not FMCSA has the data to justify the rule as written.

Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook issued a statement denouncing the rule, saying, "FMCSA's rule, which ignores mountains of safety research, authorizes the exact same 11-hours of driving and 34-hour restart provisions of rules past - rules that the court deemed were inadequate. Under the rule, drivers may continue to log a physically and mentally demanding 77 hours behind the wheel in a seven-day period, take a mere 34 hours off, then hit the road to do it all over. In addition, drivers can be required to work 14 hours a day, which includes loading and unloading cargo. The rule also fails to require electronic on-board recorders that are essential to assure effective enforcement of the rule."

The Final Rule is available for download at:

Also see "FMCSA Retains 11-Hour Driving Limit," 12/12/2007.