Compliance Experts Offer Guidance on Rest Breaks and Restarts

July 3, 2013

The changes to the hours-of-service rules will significantly most long-haul truck operations and drivers. Drivers who work a regular schedule that includes a daily lunch break and the weekends off may not be affected much by the new requirements. However, for drivers who work long hours with irregular routes, rely on the restart, regularly work nights, and/or cannot normally go off duty during their shift, the new rules could take significant adjustment and training.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the revisions will help the hardest working drivers get more rest — both on a daily and weekly basis — thereby reducing fatigue and preventing accidents. Unfortunately for many, the changes will also mean less productivity, less flexibility, and higher costs, including training expenses.

Compliance with the new hours-of-service rules became mandatory as of 12:01 a.m. on Monday, July 1, 2013. And while certain state enforcement personnel may be willing to "educate" drivers or issue warnings instead of citations during the early days of compliance, motor carriers and drivers should be in full compliance now. The rules do not include a grace period for compliance.

In part, this means that any 34-hour "restart" break taken after June 30, 2013, must not begin until 168 hours after the beginning of the last restart break, even if the last restart break was taken before July 1.

Compliance with the hours-of-service rules is being tracked and judged like never before, and the consequences of non-compliance can be severe, according to regulatory compliance experts at J.J. Keller & Associates who offer the following guidance on how to comply.

On Duty Definition Changes

The first changes that went into effect under the new rules were actually beneficial for many drivers. The definition of on-duty time was changed as of February 27, 2012, so that certain activities that used to be "on duty" are now "off duty," potentially making it easier to satisfy rest-break requirements. These activities are now "off duty":

- Resting in a parked vehicle, including a truck, bus, or motorcoach. If a driver is relieved of all duty and obligations and is free to rest, he or she can now rest in a parked vehicle and log that time as "off duty." This does not include situations where the driver is required to stay with the vehicle and/or perform any type of work.

- Up to 2 hours riding in the passenger seat of a moving, property-carrying CMV immediately before or after spending at least 8 consecutive hours in a sleeper berth. This especially benefits team drivers who want to swap 10-hour driving periods without having to spend an entire 10 consecutive hours in a sleeper berth.

Mandatory Breaks

The first day of July 2013 brings several changes to the rules for drivers of property-carrying vehicles, including mandatory rest breaks and changes to the 34-hour "restart" option.

The new rest-break requirement simply says:

"After J u n e 3 0, 2013, driving is not permitted if more than 8 hours have passed since the end of the driver's last off-duty or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes."

In simple terms, this means that at any given point in a driver's workday, if he or she wants to continue driving, the driver must look back at the past 8 consecutive hours and see if the last off-duty and/ or sleeper-berth period of at least 30 minutes ended within that time. If it did not, then a 30-minute break is required before any more driving can be done.

A few things to note about the break requirement:

1. The 8-hour period includes all consecutive time, not just driving time. On-duty time, driving time, and short rest breaks of less than 30 minutes are all counted against the 8-hour limit.

2. Drivers can "work" as much as they want to without taking the break. The rule only limits their ability to drive after going 8 hours without a break.

3. The break must be spent "off duty" and/or in a sleeper berth. It cannot be spent "on duty" unless transporting certain explosives.

4. Like other off-duty time of less than 10 hours, the break counts against the 14-hour limit.

Restart Restriction #1: Nighttime Rest

In addition to needing daily breaks, drivers using the 34-hour "restart" to reset their weekly hours under the 60/70-hour rule will face two new restrictions.

One restriction will force drivers to get two nighttime periods of rest as part of their "restart" break, even if they normally work at night. According to the FMCSA, this change was necessary because research shows that nighttime rest is always better than daytime rest.

Specifically, the rule says:

"After June30 2013, any period of 7consecutive days may end with the beginning of an off-duty period of 34 or more consecutive hours that includes two periods from 1 a. m. to 5 a. m."

In other words, for a rest break to count as a "restart," it must include the 28 consecutive hours from 1 a.m. on the first day until 5 a.m. on the following day, plus enough additional time on either end (at least 6 hours) to total at least 34 hours.

What this means is that drivers who want to get their restart after "only" 34 hours off must begin the break between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. If the break is started before 7:00 p.m. or after 1:00 a.m., it will need to be longer than 34 hours. In fact, some drivers are going to need much more than 34 hours off in order to get their restart, depending on when they start the break.

For example, these are all potentially valid restart breaks:

- 7 p.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Saturday = 34 hours

- 11 p.m. Friday to 9 a.m. Sunday = 34 hours

- 9 a.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Monday = 44 hours

- 3 a.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Monday = 50 hours

A few notes about this new provision:

1. The break can be "off duty" and/or in a sleeper berth, but must not include any on-duty time.

2. The break does NOT have to be taken at the driver's home or home terminal — it can be taken in any location — but it must be logged based on the time standard in effect at the home terminal (just like all other activities shown on the log).

3. Drivers on a team will still be able to spend part of their restart break in a sleeper berth while the vehicle is moving, but the vehicle will need to be stopped for at least the 28 hours from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on two consecutive nights.

4. The restart will still be optional. Drivers are not required to take 34 hours off every week.

Restart Restriction #2: 168 Hours

The other restriction being placed on the 34-hour restart is that drivers will not be able to start another "restart" break until 168 consecutive hours — exactly 7 days — have passed since the start of their last "restart" break.

According to the FMCSA, this limit is designed to prevent drivers from working consecutive 14-hour days, taking a restart, and going right back to 14-hour days, potentially putting in more than 80 hours per week.

Here's an example of how it will work. A driver who begins a restart break at 8:00 p.m. on a Monday will not be able to start another restart break until 8:00 p.m. or later on the following Monday, even if the driver runs out of hours long before then.

This change does not prevent drivers from going off duty for multiple 34-hour periods each week. However, if a driver takes more than one period of 34 hours off duty within a 168-hour period, only one of those breaks (if any) will count as a restart, and the driver must indicate which rest period is being used as the restart by entering a remark on the log.

There are no rules specifying when the remark has to appear or what it has to say, but a recommended practice is to note when the restart period began.

What's the Alternative?

The restart provision is optional, and drivers who don't need to get a restart will not have to worry about the new restrictions. Even if your drivers regularly use the restart option, they may not truly need it.

For example, a driver could work 8 hours per day, every day, and never reach the 60- or 70-hour limit (7 x 8 = 56) and therefore never need to get a restart. The rules do not require drivers to take 34 hours off duty every week.

Without getting a restart, how do you comply with the 60- or 70-hour limit? Simply keep a running total or "recap" of your total on-duty hours over the past 7 or 8 days, do the math each day, and see where you stand on compliance. If you don't reach the 60/70-hour limit, then you don't need extra time off.

Drivers who work long days and do reach or exceed the 60/70-hour limit will need to stop driving until they get back into compliance and "gain back" enough hours to drive. This may mean just a few hours off or it could mean more than a day off. Or, in some cases, a 34-hour restart may be the quickest way to gain back driving time.

Just keep in mind that there is an alternative to using the 34-hour restart, and drivers who don't need to use the restart option — along with the new restrictions on its use — may find that the alternative makes compliance easier.

The new restrictions on the 34-hour restart will NOT apply to the 24- hour restart option, although drivers who are eligible for a 24-hour restart will be subject to the mandatory 30-minute break provision.

What About Drivers From Canada and Mexico?

Drivers from Canada and Mexico who come into the United States will need to be in full compliance with the U.S. hours-of-service rules upon crossing the border, just like any U.S. driver. This includes the need to comply with the mandatory break requirement and the restrictions on getting a "restart."

For example, a valid 36- or 72-hour restart taken in Canada will only be accepted as a restart in the United States if it includes two consecutive periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. and was not started until 168 hours after the prior restart period. If the restart is not valid in the United States, then it will simply be ignored for compliance purposes (other than counting as a valid 10-hour break).

J.J. Keller offers tons of tools to help with hours of service compliance. Visit to check them out.

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