FMCSA issues proposal on hours-of-service rules

The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has issued a regulatory proposal that would revise hours-of-service (HOS) requirements for commercial truck drivers.

“A fatigued driver has no place behind the wheel of a large commercial truck,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We are committed to an hours-of-service rule that will help create an environment where commercial truck drivers are rested, alert, and focused on safety while on the job.”

Publication of this proposed rule coincides with the timeframe established in a court settlement agreement that requires FMCSA to publish a final HOS rule by July 26, 2011.

This new HOS proposal would retain the “34-hour restart” provision allowing drivers to restart the clock on their weekly 60 or 70 hours by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. However, the restart period would have to include two consecutive off-duty periods from midnight to 6 am. Drivers would be allowed to use this restart only once during a seven-day period.

The proposal also would require commercial truck drivers to complete all driving within a 14-hour workday, and to complete all on-duty work-related activities within 13 hours to allow for at least a one-hour break. It also leaves open for comment whether drivers should be limited to 10 or 11 hours of daily driving time, although FMCSA currently favors a 10-hour limit.

“In January, we began this rulemaking process by hosting five public listening sessions with stakeholders across the country,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S Ferro. “This proposed rule provides another opportunity for the public to weigh in on a safety issue that impacts everyone on our roadways.”

Driving hours are regulated by federal HOS rules, which are designed to prevent commercial vehicle-related crashes and fatalities by prescribing on-duty and rest periods for drivers.

Commercial truck drivers who violate this proposed rule would face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense. Trucking companies that allow their drivers to violate the proposal’s driving limits would face penalties of up to $11,000 for each offense.

Other key provisions include the option of extending a driver’s daily shift to 16 hours twice a week to accommodate issues such as loading and unloading at terminals or ports, and allowing drivers to count some time spent parked in their trucks toward off-duty hours.

A copy of the proposal is on www.fmcsa.dot.gov/HOS. The rulemaking, which was published December 29 in the Federal Register, has a 60-day public comment period. Information on how to submit comments and evidentiary material is available on the website.

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