MLR

Violating new truck driving limits brings big fines

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For the second time in eight years, the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration has created new hour-of-service rules in an effort to reduce long-distance truck driver fatigue and associated crashes.

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Regulations regarding on-duty time and definition of violations went into effect on Feb. 27, 2012. The remaining new rules go into effect July 1, 2013.

There are several changes that will impact costs and operations of trucking. Total costs – including the training, programming and other changes to company operations – are estimated at $200 per driver, bringing total industry impact to $320 million. Violations are steep.

Allowing a driver to exceed the 11-hour limit by more than three hours could result in an $11,000 fine. The 11-hour day driving limit and 14-hour maximum work day remain unchanged. After long study, the agency decided that a drop to 9 or 10 driving hours would be too costly with other changes being implemented.

To reduce driver fatigue, the agency limited use of the 34-hour restart period to one per week. This reduces maximum work hours per week from 82 to 70. The restart period must also include two night periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Truckers who work less than 70 hours per week, even if they work more than five days, are not subject to the restart. Long haul truckers paid by the mile will be most affected. The rules affect all companies that use commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce. CMVs include vehicles that:

  • Weigh 10,001 pounds or more or have gross combination weight of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Transport hazardous materials intrastate or interstate
  • Transport 16 or more passengers without compensation or nine or more passengers with compensation

Also changed is the definition of on-duty time, which formerly meant all time not spent in the sleeper cab. Excluded now is time resting in a parked vehicle and two hours before or after eight hours in a sleeper cab.

Time spent waiting for a truck to be loaded or unloaded still counts as on-duty time. To further reduce fatigue, break rules were changed. Drivers can’t be on duty for more than eight consecutive hours after their last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes.

That doesn’t mean they must wait eight hours to take a break. In a 10-hour day with two hours loading and eight hours driving, it may make sense to take a break before getting behind the wheel. The break periods count as part of the 14-hour day allowable.