The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has at last released its latest final rule on trucking hours of service (HOS). The biggest surprise in the revised regulations is the retention of the existing 11-hour daily driving limit—that despite the agency’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) having indicated that limit might be reduced to 10 hours. However, in a news release issued today, FMCSA said it “will continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time.”

Truck drivers and trucking companies must comply with the HOS final rule by July 1, 2013.

Here are the key elements of the new final rule:

  • Retains daily driving-time limit of 11 hours per shift
  • Retains driver’s work week limit of 70 hours.
  • Truck drivers cannot drive after working 8 hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Drivers can take the 30-minute break whenever they need rest during the 8-hour window
  • Requires truck drivers who maximize their weekly work hours to take at least two nights’ rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most– from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. This rest requirement is part of the rule’s 34-hour restart provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. The final rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a 7-day period
  • On-duty time does not include any time resting in a parked commercial motor vehicle (CMV). In moving CMV, does not include up to 2 hours in passenger seat immediately before or after 8 consecutive hours in sleeper-berth. Also applies to passenger-carrying drivers.

“Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “This final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives. Truck drivers deserve a work environment that allows them to perform their jobs safely.”

As part of the court settlement between FMCSA and safety-advocacy groups that had successfully challenged previous HOS rules, the agency had committed to releasing this rule no later than Dec. 28. Now the final rule is being published one day short of a year from when the NPRM was issued way back on Dec. 23, 2010.

Trucking stakeholders had opposed the content of the NPRM, largely arguing that the industry’s safety performance since the 11-hour daily driving rule became effective in 2004 demonstrated that the HOS rule was effective as it stood. Trucking interests also were unhappy from the get-go over the NPRM indicating that the new rule would furnish drivers with a one-hour break daily and change the 34-hour restart provision significantly.

And truck drivers and owner-operators opposed the shorter workday provision that has been adopted in the final rule as it would translate into fewer driving hours weekly and hence lower pay.

There has also been legislative pushback on Capitol Hill against the final rule, although none of those efforts have yet prevailed.

Read more HOS coverage from FleetOwner.