The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new hours-of-service rules, which regulate the amount of break time truckers need to take during a shift, among other things, have gone into full effect as of July 1.
The new rules were announced in December 2011 to the chagrin of much of the industry, which has been fighting against the changes. The American Trucking Associations is currently waiting on the outcome of its court action to block any new rules. The ATA had officially requested a delay in the start date of the HOS rules until after the court reaches a decision, saying that imposing the rule before the court had its say could potentially be a waste of money and resources. The request was denied by the FMCSA.
With the new rules, truck drivers now are limited to a 70-hour workweek, a decrease of 12 hours over the current guidelines. When a trucker hits that 70-hour threshold, he must take a 34-hour restart break before heading back out on the road. Finally, during the first eight hours of a shift, drivers have to take one 30-minute break.
Penalties for non-compliance could include an $11,000 fine for trucking companies and a $2,750 fine for drivers themselves.
"These fatigue-fighting rules for truck drivers were carefully crafted based on years of scientific research and unprecedented stakeholder outreach," FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said in a statement. "The result is a fair and balanced approach that will result in an estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health. Most importantly, it will save lives."
Ferro found herself on the defensive during a June 18 hearing held by the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, where legislators debated the effect of the hours of service rule change on the industry. Jeffrey Dean Hinkle of Chandler Concrete Co. was one of the big opponents of how the new rules are written. He took exception to the imposed 30-minute breaks and how they were structured.
“Companies need the flexibility to be able to give breaks as needed throughout the day,” he said during the hearing. “Every day is different in the construction field, thus companies need the flexibility to deliver contract when the customer needs it.”
Rep. Thomas E. Petri, R-Wis., noted the HOS rules can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach and need to be adaptable to individual concerns in order to succeed.
“Finding the right balance between providing drivers the opportunity to rest and the flexibility to account for unanticipated delays during the workday has been a challenge,” he said during the hearing. - Jon Ross