For the Record

Truckers News Staff | February 01, 2011

Also disappointing many by not proposing a change, FMCSA left in place the strict limits on sleeper berth use the agency adopted in 2005. To satisfy mandatory rest requirements, when splitting 10-hour rest periods, one of two sleeper berth periods must be at least eight hours. And FMCSA says drivers using the sleeper berth exception still would be subject to all the other daily and cumulative on-duty and driving limits it proposes.

Driving Hours

One of the big questions before the proposed changes were announced was whether FMCSA would reduce the number of driving hours allowed between off-duty periods from the current 11 to 10. Rather than decide now, the agency says it will settle the question following public comment. The agency did say, however, 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 do nondriving work after the 14-hour window for driving time. FMCSA now proposes to require that drivers’ workdays end immediately following the 14-hour window. That includes the two 30-minute breaks mentioned earlier.

Sound complicated? The American Trucking Associations called the Dec. 23 release of NPRM details “three big chunks of coal under trucking’s Christmas tree.” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said the details were “overly complex, chock full of unnecessary restrictions on professional truck drivers.” Truck productivity industrywide, he added, would be substantially reduced, particularly if maximum driving hours were limited to 10, an outcome ATA’s news release assumed to be likely.

Restart

Another industry concern 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.

Also, current regulations say a driver is on duty any time he is in a commercial motor vehicle unless he is in the sleeper berth. Under the proposed rules, 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 they spend in the passenger seat immediately before or after eight consecutive hours in a sleeper berth.

Under a 2009 court settlement with Public Citizen and other groups that led to the proposed rule changes, FMCSA is obligated to issue a final rule by July 26, 2011. Public comments on the proposal are due Feb. 28

A copy of the NPRM is available at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/HOS.


Industry reactions

CVSA “We are just beginning to evaluate FMCSA’s regulatory proposal…. We are also awaiting FMCSA’s action related to the next rule on [electronic logs] and how they treat supporting documents in conjunction with that rulemaking. We continue to believe that an across-the-board [electronic log] mandate will help increase compliance with hours-of-service regulations and, as a result, have a positive impact on safety.”

— Laura Zabriskie,

communications director, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance

Safety Advocates: “The new proposed rule does not eliminate anti-safety provisions that allow truck drivers to drive and work long hours, get less rest and drive while fatigued.”

— Joint statement from Public Citizen, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the Truck Safety Coalition.

OOIDA “We are carefully analyzing the proposal, but I can tell you that to make additional safety gains, the next hours-of-service rule must be more flexible to allow drivers to sleep when tired and to work when rested. The rules must encourage truck drivers to get off the road when they are tired and must not penalize them for doing so.”

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