FMCSA Issues Final Rule on Drivers Hours of Service

The U.S. DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced of April 24, 2003, the first substantial change to the hours-of-service rules (HOS) since 1939. The FMCSA estimates the new rule will save up to 75 lives and prevent as many as 1,326 fatigue-related crashes annually. There were an estimated 4,902 truck-related fatalities in traffic crashes in 2002.

This rule governs drivers transporting freight in interstate commerce in a property-carrying commercial vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more, and operating vehicles transporting hazardous materials in quantities requiring vehicle placards. Carriers will operate under current hours-of-service regulations through Jan. 3, 2004. Drivers of buses (passenger-carrying CMVs) involved in interstate transportation will continue to use the current hours-of-service regulations.

FMCSA and its state enforcement partners will begin enforcing the final rule beginning Jan. 4, 2004. The implementation plan provides the FMCSA and states needed time to modify computer systems to reflect the regulatory changes, train more than 8,000 state and federal personnel, and provide education and outreach to the industry. In addition, the implementation plan allows carriers and drivers time to become familiar with the new regulation and make any procedural changes necessary for compliance.

Rules for the record-of-duty status form, also known as a driver’s daily log, remain unchanged for truck and bus drivers. Those truck and bus drivers operating within a 100 air-mile radius of the driver’s normal work location, who return to that location and are released from duty within 12 hours, will keep time cards as allowed under the current rules.

This final rule along with explanatory information may be accessed at the FMCSA Internet Web site at The American Trucking Associations website also provides a significant amount of information about the new rule.

A brief summary of the rule follows:


Who Does the Rule Apply To?
The new rule applies to all “property carrying drivers” and motor carriers operating trucks in interstate commerce. The new rule does not apply to passenger carrying drivers.

How Many Consecutive Off-Duty Hours Must a Driver Take Before Driving?
Each driver must take at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty prior to driving in interstate commerce. However, a driver may split the required 10 hours of off-duty time if resting in a sleeper berth. (See explanation below.)

How Many Hours May a Driver Be On-Duty?
No driver may drive after having been on-duty for 14 consecutive hours. However, the rule allows a driver to perform non-driving work after having been on-duty for 14 consecutive hours. (See description of new short haul driver exemption below.)

Does The New Rule Require a Driver to be on a 24 Hour Work-Rest Cycle?
No. The new rule promotes a 24 hour work-rest cycle, but does not require it. In other words, if a driver works fewer than 14 hours in a day (12 hours, for example), he is required to be off-duty 10 consecutive hours, and not 12. Thus, the rule does not require that a driver’s on-duty and off-duty periods add up to 24.

How Many Hours May a Driver Drive During Each On-Duty Period?
A driver may drive up to 11 hours in any 14 consecutive hour on-duty period.

Does the New Rule Require a Driver to Take a Rest Break During His/Her Shift?
No. The new rule does not require a rest break during an on-duty shift.

How Many Hours May a Driver Work Each Week?
The new rule retains the existing weekly on-duty limits. In other words, no driver may drive after being on-duty 60 hours in any 7 consecutive days. Also, for carriers that operate 7 days a week, no driver may drive after being on-duty 70 hours in 8 consecutive days. (Please see explanation of the new “restart” provision immediately below.)

May a Driver “Restart” His/Her 7 or 8 Day Week?
Yes. Any off-duty period that totals 34 consecutive hours (1 day plus 10 hours) or more may restart a driver’s 7 or 8 day week. However, it is important to note that the rule does not require a 34 consecutive hour off-duty period each week. The restart provision is voluntary–it may be used, but it does not have to be taken each workweek.

May a Driver Split the 10 Consecutive Off-Duty Hours in a Sleeper Berth?
Yes. Any driver, whether driving solo or as part of a sleeper team operation, may split his 10 hours off-duty using a sleeper berth. The new rule operates exactly as the previous rule did on sleeper berth use, except that the two separate periods in the sleeper berth must total 10 hours, not 8 hours, and neither of the rest periods in the berth may be less than 2 hours. Thus, the available sleeper berth split options are: 8 hours coupled with 2 hours, 7 hours coupled with 3 hours, 6 hours coupled with 4 hours, and 5 hours coupled with another 5 hours.

Must a Driver Use an On-Board Recorder to Keep Track of His/Her Hours?
No. The new rule allows motor carriers and drivers to use on-board recorders that meet certain performance specifications, but it does not require their use.

How Does the New Rule Treat the Existing Exceptions and Exemptions?
All 14 existing exemptions and exceptions remain in the rule. In fact, the new rule provides a new short haul driver exemption that allows a driver to drive after the 14thhour, but not after the 16th hour, one day a week, provided the driver is released from his normal work reporting location that day, and in the previous 5 days that the driver worked. The 11 hour driving limit still applies in this new exemption.

How Does the New Rule Effect Intrastate Hours of Service Regulations?
You are not subject to the FMCSA HOS regulations. You may currently be subject to similar State rules and may be subject to the final rule in this document, if your State or local government adopts final rules in order to participate in the Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program, 49 CFR part 350. Wisconsin truck operators are subject to the provisions of Wisconsin Administrative Rule Trans 327.

What are the “restart” provisions for tow truck drivers provided in the emergency relief exemption under 390.23, Relief from regulations?
This amendment requires that drivers who provide direct assistance, as defined by §390.5, to emergency relief efforts must, before returning to normal duty in interstate commerce, (1) take at least 10 consecutive hours off-duty, if they have driven more than 11 hours or have been on duty more than 14 hours, and (2) take at least 34 consecutive hours off duty, if they have been on duty more than 60 hours in 7 days or 70 hours in 8 days.

What is the Maximum for Driving time for Drivers of Passenger-carrying Vehicles?
The new rule does not apply to passenger carrying drivers. A driver of a passenger-carrying vehicle may use the current rules after this rule’s effective date. A driver of a passenger-carrying vehicle that does not use a sleeper berth must not drive more than 10 hours following 8 hours off duty. Such a driver also must not drive after having been on duty 15 hours following 8 hours off duty. This rule allows drivers to extend the workday by taking off-duty time, including meal stops and other rest breaks, of less than 8 hours duration other than sleeper berth time. This rule retains the current 60 hours in 7 consecutive day and 70 hours in any period of 8 consecutive day rules.

Does the New Rule Require an Employer to Notify a Driver of His/Her Upcoming Schedule?

When Must a Driver and a Motor Carrier Comply with these New Rules?
Drivers and motor carriers must begin complying with these new rules in January 2004. Compliance with the current HOS rules is required throughout the remainder of 2003.

Courtesy: The American Trucking Associations and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration