Responding to a court-imposed deadline, this morning the Dept. of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a new proposal to revise hours-of-service (HOS) rules or commercial truck drivers that would make only minor changes to the existing “restart” provisions and avoids answering —for now anyway— the highly contentious question of whether drivers should be held to 10 or 11 hours of daily driving time.

This latest in a long string of FMCSA HOS rulemaking proposals, this one would retain the existing 34-hour “restart” provision that DOT said allows drivers to “restart the clock” on their weekly 60 or 70 hours by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.

Read previous coverage from Fleetowner on HOS

However, under this the new proposal, the restart period would have to include two consecutive off-duty periods from midnight to 6:00 a.m., presumably to ensure drivers get two nights off in a row. Drivers would be allowed to use this restart only once during a seven-day period, noted DOT.

The proposed rule would also require truckers “to complete all driving within a 14-hour workday, and to complete all on-duty work-related activities within 13 hours to allow for at least a one- hour break.”

Yet, as DOT stated in its own news release, the proposal “leaves open for comment whether drivers should be limited to 10 or 11 hours of daily driving time, although FMCSA currently favors a 10-hour limit.”

According to DOT, other key provisions of the proposed rule include:

  • Option of extending a driver’s daily shift to 16 hours twice a week “to accommodate for issues such as loading and unloading at terminals or ports”
  • Allowing drivers to “count some time spent parked in their trucks toward off-duty hours.”

Additionally, truckers in violation of this proposed rule would face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense. Trucking companies that allow their drivers to violate the proposal’s driving limits would face penalties of up to $11,000 for each offense.

“In January, we began this rulemaking process by hosting five public listening sessions with stakeholders across the country,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “This proposed rule provides another opportunity for the public to weigh in on a safety issue that impacts everyone on our roadways.”

“A fatigued driver has no place behind the wheel of a large commercial truck,” noted Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “We are committed to an hours-of-service rule that will help create an environment where commercial truck drivers are rested, alert and focused on safety while on the job.”

DOT stated that publication of the proposed rule “coincides with the timeframe established in a court settlement agreement that requires FMCSA to publish a final HOS rule by July 26, 2011.”

The rulemaking will be published in the Federal Register on December 29 and the public will then have 60 days to comment. Click here for information on how to submit comments and evidentiary material to FMCSA..