New federal regulations likely to cut the number of hours many truck drivers spend behind the wheel each day and week took effect July 1, despite efforts by the trucking industry to stop the clock and gain more time to adjust operations and comply with the rules.
The hours of service regulations require truck drivers to take a 30-minute break after working eight consecutive hours and limit the use of a 34-hour restart provision designed to get drivers back on the road more quickly after completing a week’s work.
Drivers will have to be off duty two consecutive 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods before they can restart their weekly clocks, and they can only use the 34-hour restart once within a week — or 168 hours from the last restart. That means some drivers will have longer breaks.
Starting this week, truckers must log hours in their record of duty status logbooks according to the new rules. A printable "visor card" sumarizing the new rules for drivers is available here from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Drivers and companies that violate the rules could face more stringent penalties — up to $11,000 per offense for companies and $2,750 per offense for drivers. The final rules were released in December 2011, but compliance with the restart changes was delayed 18 months.
Trucking and shipping groups led by the American Trucking Associations challenged the rules in federal court, arguing a change in truck driver hours of service was unwarranted based on recent improvements in truck safety and not supported by scientific data.
“FMCSA’s motivation to change these rules was not based on evidence demonstrating a problem,” Steve Williams, chairman and CEO of flatbed carrier Maverick USA and chairman of the American Transportation Research Institute, told Congress June 18.
In his testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Williams said the ATA wanted Congress to keep the older rules in place until a field study on the overall effect of the new rules is complete. To date, Congress hasn't acted.
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., heard oral arguments in two challenges to the rules, including one from the ATA, in March but has yet to release a decision on whether to send the work rules back to federal regulators for further adjustment.
The new rules, and particularly the tighter 34-hour restart provision, are needed to prevent trucking companies from “abusing” the work rules and keeping tired drivers on the road, Federal Motor Carrier Administrator Anne S. Ferro said June 21.
“The underlying principle behind the new rule is to minimize and remove the risk that (trucking) companies, and, frankly, shippers as well, will use and abuse the opportunity to reset the clock sooner to push a driver to run an 80-hour week,” Ferro said.
Most trucking operators will be “untouched” by the rules, though many companies may be “touched on the margins,” the safety agency chief told trucking and logistics executives at the SMC3 Connections 2013 conference in Uncasville, Conn., June 21.
Certainly, irregular route, long-haul trucking operators will feel the biggest pinch from the new rules. The restart changes will make it harder for them to manage networks of drivers and trucks operating throughout the country, and cut into their productivity.
The ATA and ATRI estimate trucking companies will lose an estimated 1.5 to 4 percent in productivity, costing motor carriers between $500 million and $1.4 billion. Carriers have been scrambling in recent months to prepare for the July 1 compliance deadline.
The FMCSA estimates the new work rules will prevent 1,400 crashes, 560 injuries and 19 deaths a year, with an estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from reduced fatigue and improved truck driver health.
[Ed.: We are making this member-only look at the new hours of service regulations accessible to all readers in honor of #TruckerTuesday.]