HOS Ruling Cuts Driver Hours by 15%

The FMCSA has released their final ruling on the maximum number of driving hours from 82 down to 70 in an effort to combat accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers.

The ruling comes after many months of public consultation and modifications to CSA 2010.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the final HOS ruling on December 22, 2011, basing it on the latest research in driver fatigue and replacing the existing FMCSA hours-of-service (HOS) safety requirements for commercial truck drivers.

Big rigs can be deadly

“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.”

Highlights of new HOS ruling

The main changes to Hours of Service are aimed at making sure drivers are not overworked and at risk of fatigue, a known cause of many fatal accidents.

Reduces maximum hours by 15%FMCSA’s new HOS final rule reduces the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work in a week, by 12 hours. 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.

Restart the clock after 34-hour break – The 34-hour restart provision allows drivers to restart their working week clock after a minimum 34 consecutive hours off-duty (see below ‘What is off-duty time?’). Part of this provision is that drivers need to have two nights off duty between 1am and 5am, since this is when the 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most.

30-minute break every 8 hours – 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.

11-hour daily limit – 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.

This final HOS ruling, which comes into effect July 1, 2013, is doesn’t represent a big shift from the preliminary rulings, aimed at keeping both drivers and other road users safe from overworked and fatigued truck drivers.

What counts as off-duty time?

According to the DOT off-duty time is when you, as a driver, are relieved of all duty and responsibility for performing work. You must be free to pursue activities of your own choosing and be able to leave the place where your vehicle is parked.

If you are not doing any work (paid or unpaid) for a motor carrier, and you are not doing any paid work for anyone else, you may record the time as off-duty time.

Penalties for HOS infringements

Considering that fleets will have ample time to comply with the final HOS rulings, it’s not surprising that the DOT will be issuing hefty fines for violations. Companies and drivers that commit significant 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.

Avoid fines, downtime with EOBR devices

Commercial truck drivers and companies must comply with the HOS final rule by July 1, 2013. It makes sense to plan ahead and setup processes now to make sure your fleet is compliant with the new HOS rules. Many fleets are switching to telematics software that uses EOBR devices that automatically record on-duty and off-duty time so drivers can easily see how much time they have left to legally keep driving, as well as speeding up any roadside checkpoints setup by the FMCSA to check driver HOS.

Share your thoughts on the final HOS ruling. Will it make our roads safer? Will it be a financial hardship on truck drivers? Will it add a compliance burden to OTR fleets?