FMCSA Releases New Hours of Service Rules

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has established new rules relating to hours-of-service regulations. Although FMCSA maintained the current 11 hour driving limit, there are a number of important changes that will affect motor carriers and drivers.

Effective February 27, 2012, the rules modify the definition of "on-duty time." Currently, on-duty time includes any time spent in a commercial motor vehicle (except for the sleeper-birth). Under the new rules, on-duty time does not include any time resting in a parked commercial motor vehicle, whether or not the driver is in the sleeper-birth. In a team driver scenario, the new rules allow a driver to count up to two hours in the passenger seat as off-duty time, as long as that time period is immediately before or after eight consecutive hours in the sleeper-berth.

Motor carriers and drivers will also receive additional guidance as to the definition of an "egregious" hours of service violation. The current rules do not specifically define an egregious violation. Under the new rules, however, driving (or allowing a driver to drive) three or more hours beyond the driving time limit may be considered an egregious violation subject to the maximum civil penalties. Drivers and motor carriers will be required to comply with this new definition starting on February 27, 2012.

The new rules place additional limitations on the "34-hour restart." A 34-hour restart must now include consecutive two periods between 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM. Previously, drivers were only required to be off-duty for 34 consecutive hours. Additionally, the 34-hour restart can only be used once per week. This new rule goes into effect on July 1, 2013.

Also effective July 1, 2013, drivers will also be limited to eight consecutive hours of driving. Under the new rules, after eight hours of consecutive driving, a driver must go off-duty for at least 30 minutes. This rule serves to limit the maximum on-duty window time within the 14-hour window to 13.5 hours.

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