Some jurisdictions ‘do not compute’ new restart limitations
The photo doesn’t quite do it justice — it was an absolutely standing-room-only packed-house scene in the 30-minute 11 a.m. hours of service session in room D161 at the Dallas Convention Center a week ago tomorrow, once all the drivers filed in. It’s no secret why so many, myself included, were interested in hearing what the safety consultant delivering the program, put on by the Texas state trucking association, had to say about what is probably the most contentious issue going since the new hours rules’ implementation July 1.
But given the time allowed, the presentation was little more than a round-up of the changes, covered ad nauseum here in Overdrive, in the new rule — with one exception. As we know from the on-/off-duty discussions we’ve had here on the blog, not every enforcement jurisdiction seems to be interpreting the changes — or even the longstanding provisions — in the same way. At one point in the presentation, during discussion of changes to the restart rule, the presenter offered examples of enforcement officers around the nation taking the view that restarts were limited by location, not just by time, the latter of which is abundantly clear from the new rule’s language (the two 1-5 a.m. periods required to be included in the restart are to be based on the driver’s home terminal time zone).
More than one driver, said the presenter, had been put out of service for taking a restart while in a time zone different from his home terminal’s.
The room went into murmurous uproar. Hold on just one second — do you mean to tell us that we can’t take a restart anywhere except at our home terminal?
The presenter, Leon Feazell of Tejas Safety Advantage, did in fact mean that, he said, and a driver in the audience raised his hand to indicate that an enforcement official in New Orleans had put him out of service for it.
A look at the final rule (see p. 22-23 for restart discussion), however, shows that this is flat wrong, or “bull,” as a fellow trucking journalist put it to me later when I told him the story.
One of the drivers in the room, which got steadily louder and louder as attendees wondered at the problem interpretation, read aloud an FAQ from FMCSA’s website that described the limitation of the two 1-5 a.m. periods required to be included in any restart — “Drivers’ logs are based on the time zone of their home terminal. The 2-night periods are, therefore, set by the time at the home terminal. They are not related to ‘local time’” [my emphasis].
Here’s an excerpt from FMCSA’s interpretive discussion in the Final Rule itself, which makes clear that, as before, restarts are not limited by the location of the home terminal:
The 2-night periods are, therefore, set by the time at the home terminal. This approach will make it easier for drivers and schedulers and not introduce new complexity to the rule. Based on comments, it appears that many and perhaps most drivers prefer to use their restart periods at home. To the extent that drivers are in other time zones during their restart, basing the time on their terminal time zone will also ease the concern expressed by commenters that all drivers would be returning to duty at the same time (i.e., 5 a.m.).
Case closed? Not exactly — as mentioned before, drivers are being put out of service in some jurisdictions for a supposed violation of the restart rules when restarting hours away from the home terminal. If this has happened to you, and you clearly got the time-zone difference correct, get in touch — and if it happens to you in future, arm yourself with the rule itself and a big dose of explanatory patience, I suppose. You can download the full text of the rule here.
I’ve got a question on this out to the enforcement standards body the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance on this, too. Feazell, at a certain point in the GATS session, surmised that CVSA would make the location-interpretation their official interpretation of the rule. My gut is that this is highly doubtful, but I’ve yet to hear the final word from them — you’ll know when I do.