New Hours of Service Final Rule Offers New Challenges for Drivers

January 9, 2012

December 2011 saw a change to the Hours of Service regulations that truckers must follow, with the biggest change coming in the 34-hour restart rule.

Currently, a driver may choose to reset his workweek clock to 70 hours simply by taking a voluntary 34-hour break, with no limit to how many such breaks a driver may take during a week. While the intent behind the rule was that drivers would get some rest while on the road without losing valuable work hours, the reset option has been abused, and drivers have not gotten the rest the option was supposed to provide. In July 2013, this will no longer be possible.

The new reset rule allows only one reset per week, with a mandatory minimum of seven days between resets, and there must be two blocks between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. in the 34-hour period. This means a driver who stops at midnight Thursday night may reset his clock on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. while a driver who stops at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning may not drive again until 5 a.m. Monday morning, a full 43 hours later.

What this means in loss of income has not been determined yet, but the hope is that drivers will be better rested. That said, on the face of it, the new rule is not beneficial for team drivers or those who drive at night. Since these drivers must also have those two early morning blocks in their reset times, they will find themselves sitting for longer periods simply through the way that their workweek falls.

Examples: Driver A starts driving at 8 a.m. Sunday morning, and completes his 11 hours driving by 8 p.m., with an hour break at 2 p.m. for lunch. He does this until Friday when, with 66 hours behind him, he chooses to sit until Sunday morning at 5 a.m. to reset his clock. He can now repeat the previous week's cycle indefinitely.

Driver B starts driving at 8 p.m. on Sunday night. He follows the same cycle for the first week as driver A, ending at 8 a.m. each morning and reaches 66 hours Saturday morning. He decides to reset his clock, but because of the required early morning blocks, he cannot drive again until MONDAY at 5 a.m. This is already a loss of 14 hours. If the driver wishes to continue to drive at night, to start at 8 p.m. means sitting another 15 hours for a total of 29 HOURS that the driver is neither making money nor at home, but sitting somewhere spending money. For teams, the problems are just as bad, since one driver is able to drive on Sunday, but the other must wait until Monday, throwing off the next week completely and going downhill from there.

Add to this the problem of more trucks on the roads during the day, when passenger traffic is heaviest, and the good intentions of the rule-makers becomes a logistical nightmare for professional drivers.

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