DOT Safety Regulation Update Fast-Fax™
Week of December 27, 2010
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Carriers, drivers and other interested parties have until February 28 to submit their comments on FMCSA’s proposed revisions to the Hours-of-Service rules.
Safety advocates and big industry associations started weighing in on FMCSA’s new Hours of Service (HOS) proposal shortly after the preview copy appeared on the agency’s website on December 23. Now it’s your turn to get involved in the conversation.
Driving Time Question Remains Unanswered
The long wait for the Hours-of-Service NPRM may be over, but the driving time question remains. In its proposal, FMCSA is recommending limiting drivers to either 10 or 11 hours of driving time after at least 10 consecutive hours off duty. Currently, the agency said, it is leaning toward reducing drive time to 10 hours. The only good news here is that the 9-hour driving limit, which was discussed as a possibility, appears to be off the table.
To help determine the driving time mandated in the forthcoming HOS rule, FMCSA is seeking data on fatigue-related crashes, the economic impact of a 10-hour vs. 11-hour driving limit, and how much driving is actually done between the 10th and 11th hours.
Proposal Adjusts Driving Window
The agency is proposing a standard driving window of 14 hours. Therefore, if the proposal becomes a final rule drivers will have 14 hours after coming on duty to complete their 10 or 11 hours of driving (depending on which driving limit FMCSA settles on).
If you think that seems too simple for a Federal regulation, you may have a future at FMCSA. The agency has also proposed to limit the actual on-duty time during that 14-hour driving window to 13 hours of onduty time. As such, drivers will be required to take at least one hour of break time during the standard driving window.
In another interesting twist, FMCSA is proposing an option that would allow drivers to extend their daily shift twice a week. Any time worked over 14 hours would count as an extension. As proposed, the extension does not extend a driver’s 13 hours of duty time. Any driver who would want to take advantage of the 16th hour would need to take 3 hours of off-duty time during the standard driving window. The definition of on-duty is being tweaked to allow drivers to count some of the time spent parked in their trucks as offduty hours.
Mandatory Breaks for Drivers
The proposal also introduces a 30-minute break requirement for drivers. Upon reaching the 7th hour after coming on duty, the driver may remain on-duty, but cannot resume driving without taking a 30-minute break. For example, a driver who opts to take a half-hour break 4 hours after coming on duty will need take another break no later than 11.5 hours after coming on duty to continue driving.
New Limits to the 34-Hour Restart
FMCSA is also proposing two new limits to the 34-hour restart. The goal of these changes is to reduce safety and health impacts that result from long weekly hours, according to the agency.
First, any 34-hour or longer period used as a restart must include two consecutive off-duty periods from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. This requirement is less of an issue for daytime drivers since their schedules allow them to get two nights of sleep in a 34-hour period. However, a driver with a night-time driving schedule would be required to spend an extra day off duty to meet the restart requirement and maintain their night-time driving schedule. The issue, according to FMCSA, is that night shift workers have a tendency to switch to a regular night-time sleeping schedule during their days off. As a result, many night drivers are only getting one night of restorative rest before beginning a new “work week.”
The second limit would allow drivers to begin only one restart during a 7-day period. So, regardless of when they meet their maximum driving time for a given week, they will not be able to begin their 34-hour restart until 168 hours after the previous restart. Imagine a driver ends a work week and begins the 34-hour restart at 6 p.m. on Friday. The earliest he could return to duty would be Sunday at 6 a.m., and the earliest he could begin the next restart would be 6 p.m. the following Friday. If the driver runs out of weekly hours at 3 p.m. on Friday, he cannot include the time between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. as part of his 34-hour restart. The three hours would simply be counted as off-duty time.
How to Comment
FMCSA is currently accepting comments online at www.regulations.gov as well as via fax, mail and hand delivery. Be sure to include the docket number (FMCSA–2004–19608) on all comments. Also, indicate the specific section of the NPRM that the comment addresses as well as the reasoning behind each comment or suggestion. All comments will be posted at www.regulations.gov.