This is part 3 of a 3 part post discussing the hours-of-service regulations. You can read parts here.
Despite the Court challenge, the FMCSA’s 2011 final rule took full effect on July 1, 2013. The highlights of the new hours-of-service final rule are as follows:
- A 70 hour maximum average work week for truck drivers, which is a decrease from the previous maximum of 82 hours;
- Truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week are permitted to resume driving after resting for 34 consecutive hours, as long as the 34 hour rest period includes two 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. periods; and
- Truck drivers are required to take a 30-minute break during their first 8 hours of a shift.
The new final rule did not change the 11-hour daily driving limit or the 14-hour work day. Based upon scientific research, the FMCSA estimates that the new hours-of-service rules will save 19 lives annually. In addition, the agency estimates that the new rules will prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year. The FMSCA also believes that the new rules will have a positive economic impact on the trucking industry. The FMSCA estimates that the industry will save $280 million from fewer truck crashes and $470 million from improved driver health.
Companies and drivers that violate the new rules will be faced with penalties. Trucking companies and passenger carriers that allow drivers to exceed the new rules by more than 3 hours face fines up to $11,000 per offense. In addition, drivers themselves face civil penalties up to $2,750 per offense. These financial penalties pale in comparison to the extreme hazard that fatigued commercial motor vehicle operators pose to the health, safety and welfare of the general public and themselves.
On the heels of the FMCSA’s announcement that the 2011 final rule went into full effect on July 1, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a decision on the legal challenges to the rule. At issue in the case were the 34-hour restart, once-per-week restriction, two-night requirement, 11-hour driving allowance and 30-minute break. This time the Court sided with the FMCSA and upheld the hours-of-services rules, with one minor exception. Specifically, the Court ruled in favor of the trucking industry and vacated the 30-minute break rule as it applies to short-haul drivers who operate within a 100 air-mile radius or drivers who operator property-carrying vehicles that do not require a commercial driver’s license within a 150 air-mile radius.
Most commentators agree that the Court’s most recent ruling will put an end to the 10-year legal battle over the hours-of-service-rules. Nevertheless, the controversy over the hours-of-service rules will live on as the profit-driven trucking industry will continue to argue that the rules go too far and safety-oriented groups will continue to argue that the rules do not go far enough. In hopes, the new rules will serve their purpose to protect the health, safety and welfare of truck drivers and the general public and innocent lives will be saved.