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What Do Truckers Need to Know About New Hours of Service Rules?

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On Monday, regulators will start enforcing new hours of service rules for freight haulers. The changes are expected to have a major impact on the trucking business by limiting the amount of time truckers can spend on the road. Though there has been a significant amount of discussion on the merits of the program, the reality is you need to comply with the new rules to avoid heavy fines and other penalties.

We’ve distilled all the information down to the fundamental bits you need to know. (note: These regulations may continue to change.)

34-hour restart rule: Drivers must take a 34 hour break from driving if they work 70 hours in one week. That includes two, back-to-back periods of nighttime rest (defined as between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.). For example, a break starting at 7 p.m. on Friday and ending at 5 a.m. on Sunday would meet the qualifications.

Rest breaks: Every 8 hours drivers are required to take a 30 minute break. If the driver does not work 8 hours straight, but breaks it up, no 30 minute break is required.

14-hour rule: Drivers may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour of coming on-duty.

Definition of off-duty time: To record time as off-duty, the driver must be free of all obligations to the carrier, meaning he or she can walk away from the vehicle and the cargo. If the driver must stay with the truck or freight, he or she is on-duty even when only sitting in the cab.

168-hour rule: If a driver works for 70 straight hours, takes a 34-hour restart and then immediately works another 70 hours, he or she cannot take a restart right away. Instead, the driver must wait until 168 hours (exactly 7 days) until the last restart period began. For example, if a driver begins on a Sunday at 5 a.m. and works 70 hours, finishing Wednesday, he or she must rest until 34 hours have passed. Then, if the driver begins working again Friday morning, works 70 hours, finishing on Tuesday, he or she cannot take a restart right away. The driver must wait until Wednesday, the same time the restart began the previous week.

Penalties: Driving or allowing a driver to drive more than 3 hours beyond the driving-time limit will be considered an “egregious” violation and will result in the maximum civil penalties.

The rules differ slightly depending on whether you are a passenger-carrying commercial vehicle driver. Information is available in greater detail at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website.