Every commercial driver is aware of the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations imposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). However, several changes were implemented last year, and other changes have a compliance date of July 1, 2013. These regulations are not without their detractors, and several drivers are blaming them for the recent increase in truck-occupant crash deaths.
Who Must Comply With HOS Regulations?
According to the FMCSA, drivers of vehicles that meet at least one of the following conditions must comply with HOS Regulations:
• Weighs over 10,000 pounds or has a gross weight rating of over 10,000 pounds
• Designed to transport 16 or more passengers
• Designed to transport 9 more paying passengers
• Transports hazardous materials and is required to display safety placards
Summary of the Final Rule
Drivers of property-carrying CMVs must meet the following requirements:
• Drivers may drive only 11 hours after 10 consecutive, off-duty hours.
• Drivers may not drive after the 14th consecutive hour after going on duty regardless of intermittent off-duty time.
• Drivers may not drive longer than 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days, and a new period may only begin after at least 34 consecutive off-duty hours.
• Drivers using a sleeper berth must spend eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and two additional hours off duty.
Changes to the HOS Regulations
As of February 27, 2012, the following changes to the HOS regulations went into effect:
• On-duty time does not include any time in a parked vehicle.
• Driving three hours or longer after the limit may result in the maximum civil penalty.
• Waiting time at oilfields must be logged as off-duty time.
In addition to the above changes, two other changes have a compliance date of July 1, 2013. The first of these is that the 34 consecutive hours of off-duty time must include two periods between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., and a 34-hour restart may only be used once per week. The second change is that drivers may only drive if a maximum of eight hours has passed since the last off-duty period of 30 minutes or longer.
Drivers State HOS Regulations to Blame for Rise in Deaths
In December 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that overall highway deaths had fallen, but truck-occupant deaths rose from 530 in 2010 to 635 in 2011. Drivers interviewed about this phenomenon cited two primary factors that could be responsible: a greater number of new, inexperienced drivers and the rigidity of the 14-hour HOS regulation.
The consensus among experienced drivers is that the average years of experience for all drivers has recently fallen, and it is believed that the average is continuing to drop. At the same time, the HOS regulation is said to be causing severe fatigue problems because it forces drivers to avoid short breaks in order to maximize their available hours.
If you want to read more, here is another article from TruckingInfo.com that describes the HOS changes in more detail.