Rest in Pieces

Todd Dills | February 01, 2012

The challenge in understanding the rule’s implications is just as great for owner-operators. Overdrive 2007 Trucker of the Year Henry Albert read the explanation of the occasional inability at roadside to verify driver compliance with the limitation of one restart every 168 hours (seven days), included in the rule. He asked himself: If drivers are required to keep in the truck seven past days of logs, plus the current day, what exactly is the problem with enforcement?

Albert and others then questioned the intent of the restart, and whether it was truly limited to “once every 168 hours.” If a driver begins a 34-hour restart period at 11 p.m. on Friday, would he be able to begin another one as early as 11 p.m. on the following Friday — 168 hours after beginning the restart? Or would he have to wait until 9 a.m. Sunday morning — 168 hours after concluding the restart?

FMCSA points out that an answer’s spelled out in the rule to allow for another restart when “168 or more consecutive hours have passed since the beginning of the last such off duty period.” That answer, of course, is buried in the language of the regulatory code in the Federal Register, not exactly easy to find.

Then there are areas where the rule can be clear, while failing to address certain situations. For example, Linda Caffee, who hauls team with her husband, Bob, notes that the requirement for a 30-minute break after eight hours of driving holds the potential to disrupt operations on certain high security loads.

“Many loads require dual driver protection, and this requires one driver to be on duty at all times watching the freight,” she says. “In order to take the half-hour break, the other driver would have to come on duty, which would start their clock,” if the driver could even legally do so.

Regarding that break, the new rule allows only haulers of certain classes of explosives to “count on-duty time spent attending the CMV, but doing no other on-duty work, toward the break.” However, explosives do not constitute the only freight where the carrier or shipper requires on-duty driver attendance of the load, Caffee notes.

“The only way on these loads is to go into a safe haven and hand over the control of the load to an observer,” she says. Safe havens, typically a carrier yard or other secure facility, will typically have “a fence and a full-time guard.”  

Will the 30-minute breaks thus create a market for safe havens on the highways? Caffee asks. “Who is going to pay for the extra miles, the extra time” to get to the safe havens? “If there comes to be a market for this, there will also be a fee associated.”

 

HOURS CHANGES AT A GLANCE

Current rule

Daily driving limit –11 hours

Breaks within drive time –None mandated

34-hour restart driving –No restrictions

34-hour restart frequency –Can be taken as often as needed

On-duty time –Includes any time in truck except sleeper berth

Penalties –Definition of “egregious” violations not specified

Final rule

Daily driving limit –11 hours

Breaks within drive time –Minimum 30-minute mandatory off-duty time after every eight hours on duty

34-hour restart timing –Must include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods

43-hour restart requency –Limitation to one per week

On-duty time –Does not include any time resting in a parked truck. For team drivers, two hours in passenger seat of a moving truck immediately before or after eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth is allowed off duty.

Penalties — “Egregious” violation defined as driving three or more hours beyond limits; maximum civil penalties can be levied on drivers and carriers (if proved complicit) for such a violation.