U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta has asked law enforcement officials to use discretion in handing out citations for violations of the new Hours of Service rules during the first 60 days of its implementation. The regulations become effective January 4.

"As we get closer to the implementation date, we are finding that too many truckers still have questions about these rules," Mineta said. "It’s our version of on-the-job training for drivers who aren’t sure how or whether the new safety rules apply to them."

He has asked state officers to write warnings instead of citations for all but flagrant violations, and to use every stop as an opportunity to educate drivers about the new rules. Federal inspectors from the FMCSA will coordinate education and enforcement efforts from regional offices across the country. In addition, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will operate a toll-free information number, (800)-598-5664, around the clock beginning December 29 to answer questions.

The decision to give warnings instead of citations also gives DOT officials more time to work out rules for truck drivers who work for public utilities. These drivers are often asked to drive beyond the time limits during public emergencies such as blackouts and natural disasters. Utilities have petitioned FMCSA for an exemption. "We want a solution that keeps roads safe, water flowing and the lights on,” said Mineta.