Safety and OSHA News

New hours-of-service regs in effect to reduce commercial driver fatigue

It’s been a back-and-forth battle in court for years. Now, new hours-of-service regulations are in place for commercial motor vehicle drivers.

The regs, administered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), went into effect July 1.

The new regs:

  • limit the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the current maximum of 82 hours
  • allow truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week to resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at last two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most — from 1-5 a.m.
  • require truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift, and
  • retain the current 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day (both of these limits reset after 10 consecutive hours off duty).

Companies and drivers that commit egregious violations of the rule could face the maximum penalties for each offense. Trucking companies and passenger carriers that allow drivers to exceed driving limits by more than three hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

Drivers can be placed out-of-service when they have violated the 70-hour provision. However, they won’t necessarily be placed out-of-service when there are violations of the 30-minute break rule. That differs from state to state.

There are also changes to what constitutes on-duty time. Under the old rule, on-duty included time in the commercial motor vehicle except for periods in the sleeper berth. Under the new rule, on-duty doesn’t include time resting in a parked vehicle.

The FMCSA estimates the new safety regulations will save 19 lives and prevent about 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year.

When the rules were proposed, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), which represents small-business and professional truckers, said the one-size fits all policy wouldn’t improve safety. The OOIDA called for more flexibility in the new rules.

Federal courts had previously thrown out other attempts to revised the hours-of-service rules.

For more information on federal safety regulations, see Safety News Alert’s Recommended Safety Links page.

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