Hours of Service Regulations Final Rule Effective February 27

February 1, 2012

Hours of service regulations affect everyone involved in the trucking industry, including drivers, shippers and company owners. The U.S. Department of Transportation is constantly looking for ways to increase the safety of highways in the United States, so the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has revised the hours of service requirements to reflect the latest research findings in regards to public safety. The final ruling was announced on December 22, 2011, but companies will not be required to comply with the new rules until the beginning of 2013.

Major Changes

One of the biggest changes in the HOS regulations are that drivers are no longer allowed to drive for more than eight consecutive hours without taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Another change is that drivers are only allowed a 34 hour reset once each week. This means that they can only work up to 70 hours per week instead of a maximum of 82 hours per week under the old rules. The weekly 34 hour reset for driving time must include at least two periods between the hours of 1 am and 5 am. Drivers are still allowed to drive a maximum of 11 hours per day. Many people in the industry expected the daily driving maximum to be reduced to ten hours, but the FMCSA did not find a significant difference in fatigue between drivers who drove 11 hours each day versus drivers who drove 10 hours per day.

Industry Reactions

The FMCSA held six sessions across the country to allow the public to comment on current and proposed HOS requirements. They encouraged drivers, safety advocates, law enforcement officials, company owners and members of the general public to attend the meetings and share their thoughts. Each session was also broadcast live on the FMCSA website to allow even more people to participate.

Even with a large amount of input from the industry and general public, many people are not happy with the new rules. Bill Graves, President of the American Trucking Association, feels that the system was not broken and the new rules are unlikely to make the highways safer. The President of the Retail Industry Leaders Association feels that the new rules will increase congestion because more truckers will be off the roads during the night hours, when traffic is generally light.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association also feels that the changes are unnecessary and will negatively impact the bottom line of thousands of independent and small-business truckers. Tom Spencer, OOIDA executive vice president says that the changes are not welcome and will not result in significant gains in regards to highway safety.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

No matter how they feel about the HOS regulations, it is vital that they know what the rules are and follow them. Just like the current HOS regulations, companies and drivers will both be subject to fines if the regulations are ignored. Companies that commit violations such as allowing their drivers to surpass the 11 hour driving rule by more than three hours could face fines of $11,000 per offense. The drivers who commit such egregious violations may also face civil penalties of at least $2,750 every time they are caught in violation of the new rules.

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