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New Rules for Commercial Truck Drivers

Following significant delays, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued new Hours-of-Service rules on Thursday, December 22, 2011. The regulation restricts how long commercial truck drivers can operate their vehicles.

According to FMCSA, the delay in issuing the final rules followed exhaustive scientific review and an extensive period for public comment. The administration stated that the new rules are based on the best science and research available. The intent behind the regulations is to ensure drivers receive the rest necessary to operate their vehicles safely on U.S. roadways and reduce the number of trucking accidents.

The rules became a topic of debate following a legal dispute between safety advocates and the Department of Transportation. Citing safety and health concerns, safety groups sought changes to the old rules, while industry insiders such as the American Trucking Association opposed the introduction of new restrictions.

The new rules introduced a number of changes, while keeping a few high-profile rules intact. The most controversial decision made by the administration was to not reduce the 11-hour daily driving limit for commercial drivers. Although the administration kept the 11-hour limit, it did reduce the weekly limit by 12 hours.

Under the previous rule, truck drivers were allowed to work 82 hours a week. The new rule limits weekly driving time to 70 hours per week. This does not include non-driving time, which is a more complicated calculation. Drivers are also now required to take a 30-minute break at least once every eight hours.

The rule also introduces changes to the mandatory “re-start” rule. Previously the HOS rules mandated a 34-hour restart period without stating when the rest period must occur. The new rule, however, adds a provision requiring at least two nights’ rest between 1 and 5 a.m.

While the new rules certainly come with their fair share of changes, not all of the changes were as aggressive as advocates had hoped. The “re-start” for instance is not nearly as restrictive as those proposed by safety advocates, who sought to take drivers off the road between the hours of 12 and 6 a.m.

Source: Truckinginfo.com, “Final HOS Rule Retains 11 Hour Driving Limit,”12/22/2011.