Rocky restart for hours rules

| July 01, 2013
Rolling truck on highway at dusk

Some observers predict new restrictions on the 34-hour restart requiring each restart to include two 1-5 a.m. periods could have unintended effects on early-morning highway and parking congestion.

The hours of service revisions the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made final in late 2011 went into true effect Monday, July 1, affecting how drivers handle rests and restarts. The July 1 compliance date for new rules remained effective in the wake of a hearing about industry impacts conducted in the U.S. House of Representatives June 18 and which saw calls for FMCSA to delay implementation.

Following the hearing, a petition launched by Minnesota-based independent owner-operator Jason Haggard remains circulating calling on Congress to force FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro to delay implementation of the hours changes, pending results of a MAP-21 highway-bill directed real-world effectiveness study under way. As of June 29, with two days remaining, the petition had almost 500 signatures and continued to grow.

Technically, the rule’s “effective date” was more than a year ago, notes FMCSA spokesman Duane Debruyne. “Carriers that have not been adhering to the Final Rule since Feb. 27, 2012, have been noncompliant,” he said. (For a quick-glance summary of the changes, see our chart at the bottom of this story and via this link.)

Also giving credence to a delay in enforcement, the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., has yet to decide in a case brought by the American Trucking Associations and joined by the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association that challenges new restrictions.

Some fleets already use the two hours of passenger-seat off-duty time for team drivers before or after at least eight hours in the sleeper berth, says Eric Witty, Qualcomm OmniTracs product manager. Witty knows because his customers have been helping the company update its electronic logging system to help carriers and drivers self-enforce and monitor the provision appropriately.

As with previous hours rewrites, more restrictive provisions are not being followed in large part yet, though some owner-operators have tried them out. Some – such as Waco, Texas-based independent Cody Blankenship – will see little change. His reefer-hauling round has him out on a typical four-to-five-day turn, then back home every weekend with plenty of time for a restart, including the two 1-5 a.m. rest periods required by the new rule.

“FMCSA might just be handing us a freight rate increase.” —owner-operator Jeff Clark at his blog, about what he sees as a need for a shift in view on regulated miles/hours-supply reductions throughout the industry

However, Blankenship worries about how the restart “is going to work with my ag trailer.” In certain seasons, he runs a hopper bottom hauling from farm fields. “There’s a lot of sitting around there” on-duty, he says. In such situations, drivers maxing out 70 on-duty hours in as few as five days could be stuck waiting there for more hours, given the new limitation of a single restart a week – measured from the beginning of the last one.

Missouri-based long-haul company driver Todd McCann, employed by a large dry van fleet he declines to name, blogs and podcasts routinely via his site. Analyzing four of his restarts this spring, he concluded that only one would have been legal after July 1.

Drivers now will be able to legally log time while resting in a parked vehicle as off-duty -- this could include, FMCSA says, extended periods spent waiting at shipper/receiver facilities.

Time spent waiting in a parked truck and logged off-duty could include, FMCSA says, extended periods spent waiting at shipper/receiver facilities.

However, in the other three, McCann would have had no problems making his appointments without the restart. Generally, he says, “As long as I can keep running, I’ll keep running – I don’t want a 34-hour if I don’t have to take one. The only time I stop [for the restart] is if I might as well.”

For McCann, the problem of not having the option of the 34-hour restart in those instances is simply a matter of reduced flexibility down the line. “There would have been no benefit sitting for 34 hours straight,” he says.

If he’s grateful for anything in the new rules, it’s that FMCSA didn’t get rid of the option of splitting 10-hour sleeper-berth periods into one eight-hour and one two-hour period. But FMCSA has changed on-duty definitions in other ways that could prevent drivers and owner-operators tied up at shippers and receivers – or, as in Blankenship’s example, delayed by weather in ag operations – from maximizing their on-duty hours.

Drivers now will be able to legally log time spent resting in a parked vehicle as off-duty, so some of that detention time might not eat up on-duty hours; previously, only bunk time in the truck qualified as off-duty. These changes could make running solely on the recap – within the constantly revolving duty limits of 70 hours in eight days, or 60 in seven days for drivers with carriers who shut down totally at least one day of the week – a potentially more palatable proposition, without sacrificing a lot of drive time.

Some drivers have expressed worry over whether carriers would use the on-duty definition change as a reason to cut into driver detention pay – for those fortunate enough to receive it. In general, though, drivers throughout a variety of operations are taking a wait-and-see approach as to how the new rule ultimately affects their incomes.

It was possible, McCann points out, that with the current restart practices, a driver’s workweek could amount to up to 82 hours in a seven-day period if everything lined up just right; the new limitations will reduce that to a maximum 70. The calculation includes not only restart limitations but also the newly mandated 30-minute off-duty break after eight consecutive driving hours without an off-duty period of at least that length.

Wisconsin-based owner-operator Jeff Clark said he was hopeful a systemwide reduction in available hours would boost driver/carrier demand while also boosting rates. Clark, sharing comments he posted May 30 on his Freightliner Team Run Smart blog, urged an industry that often seems hell-bent on fighting any new revisions that limit hours to revise its way of thinking.

“While it is our natural inclination as an industry to maximize productivity, we may be lowering our rates by doing that,” he wrote. “Through the next rounds of [hours of service] changes, the government is reducing the supply of available driver miles. Instead of fighting against them, maybe we should sit back and think two or three steps ahead. FMCSA might just be handing us a freight rate increase.”

Click through the chart for a larger version.

Quick-glance 2013 hours changes chart

  • Cliff

    It doesn’t matter. It’s not BS! They can see your insurance when they input. BUT, You must have it in your possession! (required by FMCSA statute). Some Cottonwood CHP are okay, HOWEVER, I was put out of service for a set of brake shoes on my trailer. After, pleading with the officer to check them again (which he did and still said they were out of compliance). I paid $237.00 FOR ONE SET OF SHOES to be replaced by the RIPOFF mechanics. I measured the shoes after they came off. LEGAL!!! No apology, no retraction of the citation, NOTHING!! That was eight years ago, and it still makes my blood boil!!!.

  • EF McHenry

    Thankyou. Yes this does happen all the time and it’s something beyond harassment. It is my considered opinion that this is nothing more than abuse of a driver!
    Thanks for your support… Floyd

  • EF McHenry

    Read many of your posts… you do make sense! And yes you are absolutely correct; you can regulate rest!

  • EF McHenry

    A very good point, I agree wholeheartedly! So many ex-drivers who have moved into the offices of some of these large carriers have carried with them a kind of animosity toward those they once shared the road with!
    It’s really ironic! Thanks for your support!

  • EF McHenry

    Absolutely true!

  • martymarsh

    I assume you meant can’t, but as long as there is a dollar in it they will regulate anything.
    Then we have people like P.A.T.T with their lobbyist making waves but they won’t listen to a driver. EVERYTHING is about the dollar, and it is nothing more than corruption taking it. Sorry, the kind of things upset me, and that is putting it mildly.

  • martymarsh

    I see you know what ATA is all about.

  • EF McHenry

    Yes I meant “can’t!” typo…

  • EF McHenry

    Yes I do. The hypocrisy of the ATA knows no boundary! The ATAs hypocrisy is blatant, unadulterated, unabashed and shameless. This I say in my opinion of course, but not without reason! For example the ATA argued vociferously that fatigue was not a factor when it defended the 11hr driving limit against dropping it back down to the original 10hr limit! But when advocating a sleep apnea mandatory screening rule over guidance, Graves argued “fatigue and driver health are two serious issues facing the trucking industry!” And to those out there not paying attention, a apnea screening rule would have the force of law!! Guidance would not!! Do not think when you hear reports that house republicians have written FMCSA letters urging against guidance that they are trying to prevent govt overreach! It is the exact opposite!! They are demanding FMCSA exert it’s maximum authority and power and craft and lay down a full blown sleep apnea rule over guidance that would have the force of law behind it!! But they have frame public dialogue as though they are fighting against FMCSA overreach when in reality they are screaming for the strongest new regulation in this area!! These people have only their own selfish self-interest in mind for their member carriers. Why selfish? Because they have a disregard for anyone or everyone outside their rank and membership! Bill Graves is a former republican governor of Kansas. I’m sorry, I don’t care if this publication greets my comments on this matter with great displeasure! Most republicans today are corporatist!! Most democrats are too!!
    To anyone out there interested in the difference between a real conservative and a fraud, again, in my opinion but not without reason, Google this title below and read the truth!!!!
    Ron Paul vs. Paul Ryan: Exact Opposites!

  • QQTrick1QQ

    Isn’t that nice to let us use off duty on the 30 min break….Lets not forget the 15 min pretrip when its over knocking 45 mins off the 14 hour tour.
    Thats 5.25 hours a week
    So easy a truck driver could do it.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    When i started driving in jersey there was no class of licences when a 17 year old got a drivers licence it was good for any thing on the road that had more than three wheels ! less than four wheels was a motorcycle that was the only thing you could not drive .

  • Jimmy the Greek

    Then only the big outfits would have it , we would end up like Europe . i rember having to trip lease to get home because we only had athorty to run one way ! or how about the gateways bullshit were you had to run true certin citys to run from point A to Point B Back then the boggyman was the ICC

  • Jimmy the Greek

    And they take orders from a woman ! What is thes country coming to ?

  • Jimmy the Greek

    But cops can work all the hours they want !

  • j d express

    I hope you are right ! The only fear I have is you will have to break the law to get the job done !!

  • j d express

    a men brother !

  • j d express

    you can say goodbye to LTL loads being delivered on time !!

  • cjmarley

    I do hope that is sarcasm

  • cjmarley

    Of course you know there is a “loophole” around the 30 minute thing too. Since the new law allows a driver to use their time sitting around the receiver/shipper as off-duty…some dispatchers are using that as a way to make sure you don’t have to stop somewhere for a break. At least I know mine is.

  • David Mitchell

    you taking good

  • David Mitchell

    buckle up in car / pickup, OOOOO you dont need a hemet to ride your motocycle

  • Jimmy the Greek

    You should have told the dot to sak the dog ! tell you can’t speek for the dog .

  • James

    What would happen if the Feds completely stopped regulating HOS? Would the accident rate go up because of drivers finally being able to run for 30+ hours straight,or would the accident rate go down because drivers would be able to stop and rest when they felt they needed it? Just asking because I’m more in favor of personal choice and the responsibility for the results of our choicesand very much against Government interference and over-reaching control.

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