FMCSA proposes hours-of-service changes

| December 23, 2010

Under a long-awaited proposal from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truck drivers couldn’t drive more than seven hours without a break, would have to rest for at least one hour during their 14-hour driving window and could only reset their weekly on-duty limits with a 34-hour restart that includes two nighttime periods.

FMCSA released the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to modify drivers’ hours-of-service regulations on Dec. 23.

One of the big questions had been whether FMCSA would reduce the number of driving hours allowed between off-duty periods from the current 11 to 10, but the agency chose not to decide, saying it would settle the question following public comment. The agency did say, however, that it is leaning toward reducing the driving time limit to 10 hours.

Regardless of the number of hours allowed per shift, FMCSA’s proposal would place new restrictions on drivers’ workdays. Under the current rules, drivers can conduct nondriving work after the 14-hour window for driving time. FMCSA now proposes to require that drivers’ work days end immediately following the 14-hour window and that there can be no more than 13 hours on-duty during that window. Put more simply, drivers would have to take at least one hour off duty during their driving shifts.

In addition, FMCSA proposes to require that drivers take a break of at least 30 minutes before driving more than seven hours straight.

Another concern in the trucking industry was whether FMCSA would increase the number of hours required to restart the 60 hours in seven days/70 hours in eight days limits on cumulative on-duty time. The agency proposed to leave the restart at 34 hours but with a significant restriction: Restarts would have to include two periods of midnight to 6 a.m. In addition, drivers would be explicitly limited to a single restart in a 60- or 70-hour period; current regulations don’t restrict the number of restarts.

FMCSA also proposes to give drivers and carriers some flexibility compared to current rules. For example, under current rules, only carriers meeting certain requirements could extend drivers’ daily shifts beyond 14 hours, and they could do so only once a week.

Under the agency’s proposal, all drivers would have the option of extending their daily shift to 16 hours twice a week. The goal is to give them flexibility to accommodate special situations, such as loading and unloading at terminals or ports, FMCSA says.

Also, the current regulations say that a driver is on duty any time he is in a commercial motor vehicle unless he is in the sleeper berth. Under the NPRM, time spent resting in a parked CMV is excluded from on-duty time. And even in a moving CMV, team drivers can exclude from on-duty time up to two hours of time they spend in the passenger seat immediately before or after eight consecutive hours in a sleeper berth.

Disappointing many in the trucking industry, FMCSA left in place the strict limits on use of the sleeper berth that the agency adopted in 2005. So to satisfy mandatory rest requirements, one of two sleeper berth periods must be at least eight hours. And FMCSA says that drivers using the sleeper berth exception still would be subject to all the other daily and cumulative on-duty and driving limits it proposes.

The NPRM follows a 2009 settlement of a lawsuit that had been filed by several safety advocacy groups over the current version of the rules adopted in late 2005. Under that settlement, FMCSA is obligated to issue a final rule by July 26, 2011.

FMCSA will publish the NPRM in the Dec. 29 Federal Register, thereby activating the 60-day comment period. A copy of the NPRM is available on FMCSA’s website.


  • Jeff Clark

    Not too bad: The 30 minute breaks make sense. I don’t understand reducing the driving hours to 10. I have not seen any studies of decreased safety in the 11th hour. As far as 16 hours to accomadate unloading, NO! Anytime loading or unloading time is extended the loader or unloader should be FORCED to pay detention.

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  • Todd E. Ross

    They are making it harder and harder to service customers. They are also making it harder to keep experienced drivers in the industry. The rates don’t go up every time they decide a driver has to take more breaks, so drivers earn less, and so does the company. This is anti buisness under the guises of safety

  • PHILIP GAMBUTI

    I BELIEVE THAT THE DRIVER , SINCE WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT AND CHANGE WITH AGE,SHOULD BE THE ONE TO DETERMINE HOW AND WHEN THEY DRIVE , NOT SOME SITTING IN AN OFFICE WHO IS ON A SALARY AND MAKE THE SAME WEATHER THEY DO ANYTHING OR NOT.
    I ALSO BELIEVE THAT THE RAIL ROAD IS BEHIND A LOT OF THESE REGULATION THAT DON’T MAKE SENSE.

  • Mary Henderson

    These people just don’t get it. They seem to think it’s the same for every driver as to how much sleep we need and when. They also don’t get that being 2000 miles away from home, a driver will get “more rest” in a 34 hour restart if it involves 2 nights. THEY ARE SITTING IN A TRUCK STOP. They are not at home with family where they can relax and enjoy their time off. Everyone of these people should have to get a CDL and see how they can make a living. Reducing hours of duty is a pay cut. Even teams are going to be affected if we’re required to stop for an hour during our driving period.

  • PHILIP GAMBUTI

    WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO SEE , GO BACK TO THE ORIGNAL RULES KEEP THE 34 HR RESTART AS IT IS NOW , OR DO AWAY WITH THE 7 DAY 60 HR – 8 DAY 70 HR RULE SINCE THIS INTERFERS WITH THE DRIVER DELIVERIES AND HOME TIME. THE SPLIT DRIVING-SLEEP OF 5 HRS ON 4 HRS OFF WORK OUT PERFECT FOR ME BECAUSE I NEVER GOT TIRED AND WAS ABLE TO GET WHERE I NEED TO BE ON TIME WITHOUT BENG WORN OUT. HERE AGAIN WE HAVE OFFICE PEOPLE MAKING DECISION THAT DO NOT HAVE REAL TIME EXPERIENCE.

  • PHILIP GAMBUTI

    MOST DRIVERS I KNOW ARE DOING ANYTHING BUT REST DURING THEIR 34 HR RESTART . THEY WOULD BE BETTER DRIVING THAT WAY THEY WOULD STAY OUT OF TROUBLE

  • PHILIP GAMBUTI

    WHAT WE REALLY NEED IS A BOARD THAT CONSIST OF OWNER-OPERATOR , COMPANY DRIVERS, FLEET MANAGERS , SHIPPERS AND RECEIVERS TO WAY IN ON THESE MATTERS NOT SOMEONE WITH A COLLEGE DEGREE WHO HAS NOT ACTUALLY WORKED IN THE INDUSTRY AND COMES OUT WITH STUDIES BASE ON LAB RESULTS THAT DON’T USE REAL DRIVERS TO GET REAL RESULTS.

  • PHILIP GAMBUTI

    MISSPELLED WAY=WEIGHT

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