Tomorrow, Oct. 1, the new truckers’ hours of service (HOS) rules announced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will become effective.

The agency has stated it will implement a “soft-enforcement” policy from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 to allow the trucking industry and enforcement agencies time to transition from the current rule to the new one. However, the agency said it will monitor carriers for “egregious” violations.

The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) warned that under existing procedures, more than 20 states have already codified the revised rules into state law and have the option of immediate enforcement on interstate drivers and carriers. The other states “must follow an administrative or legislative approach to adoption,” noted ATA.

The new rule makes two key changes. It will allow short-haul operators not required to hold a CDL (such as landscapers and light delivery drivers) who work within a 150-mile radius of their starting point to increase their work day by two hours twice a week. They will, however, be restricted to 11 hours of total driving time within that extended workday. Also, these operators will no longer have to maintain logbooks.

The second change is that truckers who utilize the sleeper berth exemption will have to rest for eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and take another two consecutive hours off duty before resetting their driving schedule.

The parts of the rule covering maximum driving time and minimum rest limits will remain as they are now. As before, truckers will not be allowed to drive more than 11 hours in a row; work longer than 14 hours in a shift; and drive more than 60 hours over a seven-day period or 70 hours over an eight-day period. The new rule also again requires truckers to rest for at least ten hours between shifts and provides for a 34-hour restart period.

The new rule is FMCSA’s response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision to vacate the HOS rule issued in 2003 on the grounds that the agency had failed to consider the rule’s health impact on drivers. The new, 400-page rule includes numerous studies that essentially validate the 2003 rule, said FMCSA.

“We believe we had the science and the data [to support the 2003 rule] to begin with,” said FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg upon announcing the new rule. “That’s what we said during the court case, and the court wanted us to provide it in a more thorough manner.”

On Aug. 23 Public Citizen, which led the lawsuit against the 2003 rule, along with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, Parents Against Tired Truckers, and Trauma Foundation, filed a petition to FMCSA to reconsider the new rule.

Click here to view the petition.

Public Citizen said it would not comment on further legal action. ATA attorney Robert Digges told FleetOwner that legal challenges to the new rule will be accepted by the Court up to 60 days after issuance. The new rule was published in the Federal Register on Aug. 25.

See HOS comes under fire.

For more details on the regulation, go to www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/topics/hos/HOS-2005.htm.