January 4, 2012

On Thursday, December 22, 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced a new rule that revises the hours-of-service (HOS) safety requirements for commercial truck drivers.

There are several major changes that come with the new HOS requirements.  First, the new HOS rule limits a driver’s work week to 70 hours.  Previously, truck drivers could work up to 82 hours within a seven day period.  The new rule reduces by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week.

Second, truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes.  Drivers can take the 30 minute break whenever they need rest during the eight-hour window.

Third, the rule also requires truck drivers who maximize their weekly work hours to take at least two nights’ rest from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m., when their body clock demands the most sleep.  This rest requirement is part of the rule’s “34-hour restart” provision, which allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34-consecutive hours off-duty.  Drivers can only use the restart provision once during a seven day period.

All commercial drivers and companies must comply with these changes by July 1, 2013.  However, portions of the new rule will go into effect on February 27, 2012.

Most notably, on February 27, 2012, the definition of “on duty” time will change.  Under the old rule, “on duty” time included any time in a commercial motor vehicle, except in the sleeper berth.  Under the new rule, “on duty” time will not include any time resting in a parked commercial motor vehicle. This does not include up to 2 hours as a passenger immediately before or after 8 consecutive hours in sleeper-berth.

In addition, as of February 27, 2012, the new rule imposes new penalties for violations of the HOS requirements.  Under the old rule, “egregious violations” were not defined.  Under the new rule, driving (or allowing a driver to drive) 3 or more hours beyond the driving-time limit may be considered an egregious violation and subject to the maximum civil penalties.  Therefore, trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11- hour driving limit by 3 or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

Please contact Jay Barry Harris at 215-893-8704, June Essis at 215-893-8712 or Christina Capobianco at 215-893-8731 if you have any questions regarding the new Hours of Service requirements.