Channel 19

Todd Dills

Intent v. interpretation: Questions raised by new hours rule

| January 06, 2012


The intent is not living up to the interpretation of language in the hours of service final rule, Rich Wilson of Trans Products / Trans Services told me this morning.

Just one example of the disconnect (notwithstanding the one I wrote about last week) was noted by owner-operators Linda Caffee and Henry Albert of the Trucking Solutions Group after reading an explanation of the occasional inability to enforce the limitation of one restart every 168 hours, or seven days, given the requirement of drivers to only keep eight days’ worth of logs with them on the truck. Language there, combined with radio reports, caused Albert to question whether the restart was truly limited to “once every 168 hours” or whether, rather, the intent was to require 168 hours to pass between the end of the first restart and the beginning of the next allowable one.

For instance, under the new limitations, if a driver starts a 34-hour restart period at 11 p.m. on a Friday, would he be able to begin another one as early as 11 p.m. on Friday the following week? Or would he have to wait until 9 a.m. Sunday morning?

The answer’s clearly spelled out in the rule.

After June 30, 2013,  a driver may not take an off-duty period allowed by paragraph (c) of this section to restart the calculation of 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days until 168 or more consecutive hours have passed since the beginning of the last such off duty period. When a driver takes more than one off-duty period of 34 or more consecutive hours within a period of 168 consecutive hours, he or she must indicate in the Remarks section of the record of duty status which such off- duty period is being used to restart the calculation of 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days.

Search any bit of that language in the Dec. 27 Federal Register document and you’ll find it.

However, such clear answers to other questions are as yet forthcoming, says former owner-operator Wilson, in the safety consulting business today. “I’m just waiting to get some definitive confirmation on what is right or wrong because I can’t even go out and teach this rule right now,” he says.

Questions he has have to do with changes to the definition of on-duty time. “If it does not include any time resting in a parked truck, if I write on my log, ‘parked,’ does that stretch my 14-hour clock out? Do I pick up all this time because I’m resting?”

Wilson says answers are unspecified in the document — my guess is that the rigidity of the 14-hour window precludes the ability to stretch it out, that that’s the intent, anyway. But it’s an interesting question, and highlights the need for precision in regulatory texts. What do you think? Have you found other contradictory statements in the rule’s explanation? Other problems?

  • Allen Smith

    The fact that knowledgeable and educated; drivers, advocates, and compliance specialists, such as Rich Wilson of Trans Products, are challenging these rules and making the effort to attend FMCSA and MCSAC meetings and address the vague language, is proving to be a huge step in a positive direction for us all.

    Drivers and supporters are realizing the necessity of uniting and creating a valid voice in these matters and the more of us who can respond and stand up to these vague and unclear rules, the safer, more realistic, and effective they will be.

    There is nothing wrong with creating a new rule to create a safer industry. It’s another thing to create a rule to pacify the safety advocacy groups without fully taking into consideration the repercussions of confusion and in turn compromising highway safety.

    Richard Wilson has been a strong advocate for drivers and the trucking industry for compliance and safety and has many times supported the theme of truckers uniting for positive change ( as he passionately displayed during his presentation at the First Annual Truck Driver Social Media Convention)

    The Trucking Solutions Group was represented by Rick Ash last year in Tunica and it’s obvious they too are passionate regarding the need for those concerned to be vocal and address these critical issues.

    As driver advocates, how can we all help explain the rules to others when they are so obviously vague to even the experts!

    Thank you Todd…another informing article!!

  • Todd Dills

    Thanks for the feedback here, Allen. Just wanted to post some language from the hours-rule justification that appears to answer Richard’s initial notion about how exactly logging “parked” during on-duty time would affect the 14-hour clock, if at all. This is in the “on-duty definition” section the comments/FMCSA responses portion (knew something to the effect had to be in there somewhere): “With the 14-hour limit, it is unlikely that either the carrier or driver will want the driver to spend extended periods off duty in a parked truck during the duty day because all of the time counts against the 14-hour period.” strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.