J.P. Trucking, Inc

Falling Waters, WV


The hours-of-service changes are here, but don't panic

Posted by J.P, Trucking, Inc on February 9, 2012 at 11:40 AM

On December 27, 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published the final rule changing the hours-of-service regulations. This article will take a look at the significant dates involved, as well as the significant changes (there were other minor changes that involved redoing existing paragraph numbers, changing the way other associated regulations are referenced, etc.).


December 27, 2011


The final rule was published in the Federal Register on December 27, 2011. It listed all of the changes mentioned below, the effective date, as well as the compliance dates. The bottom line is that nothing actually changed on December 27; it is only the date that the rule was officially published.


February 27, 2012


This is the effective date of the rule. It is the date that the regulatory text changes become official. It is also the first compliance date. As of February 27, 2012, the following changes occur:

•A special penalty is being added to Part 386 related to “egregious violations of the driving time limits.” If a driver is found to have driven more than 3 hours over the appropriate driving limit, the driver will be penalized $2,750 and carriers $11,000 for each violation. This change applies to both passenger and property carrying drivers and their carriers.

•The clarifications related to the oilfield exception are adopted. This clarifies that time spent waiting at a well site by a driver with specialized training operating a specially-constructed vehicle can be logged off duty. Part of this involves the regulations officially recognizing the “five-line log” (the fifth line being the “off duty at well site” line) for the first time. This change also clarifies that time spent waiting at well sites does not count toward the driver’s 14-hour limit.

•Team drivers can log up to two hours of time spent riding in a moving commercial vehicle as off-duty time, provided the two hours is immediately before or after a sleeper berth break of eight hours or more. Previously, all time spent riding in a moving commercial vehicle had to be logged as on-duty time, unless the driver was in the sleeper. This change only applies to property carrying drivers and their carriers.

•Time spent resting in a parked commercial vehicle can be logged as “off duty.” This does not apply to explosives haulers under any circumstances, as these drivers cannot log off duty, due to their attendance requirements. It also does not apply if the driver has any responsibility to the vehicle, cargo, or company, or is in any situation where he/she cannot walk away from the vehicle to pursue activities of his/her choosing (so waiting to load and unload still cannot be logged off duty). This change applies to both passenger and property carrying drivers and their carriers.

•Section 395.3 is being updated to create a “new” regulation and violation for failing to take a 10-hour break. Presently, if a driver makes an error and only takes a 9.75-hour break rather than a 10-hour break, the driver is considered as being in violation of the 11- and 14-hour regulations the entire next day, as the time on the next day just keeps getting added to the previous day’s duty and driving time, because there is no specific regulation or violation for taking too short of a break. As part of this, the paragraphs in §395.3 are being “relettered” to accommodate the new regulation relating to the 10-hour break. This change only applies to property carrying drivers and their carriers.

Carrier impact due to these changes


The new definition of an “egregious driving violation” is what will adversely affect carriers the most, and that will only impact a small population of carriers. The other changes (allowing drivers to log off duty in more situations, clarifying the oilfield exception, and creating a separate regulation/violation related to the 10-hour break) will actually help most carriers.


July 1, 2013


July 1, 2013, is the compliance date for the other changes that are included in this rulemaking. All of these changes only apply to property carrying drivers and their carriers. These changes include:

•Prohibiting a driver from driving if more than 8 hours have passed since the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper break of 30 minutes or more. This rule will require a driver that works over an eight hour shift to take at least one 30-minute break. The break can be taken at any time during the day, as the rule only states that the driver cannot drive if more than 8 hours has passed since the driver’s last break of 30 minutes or more (the rule does not dictate where in the driver’s 14-hours the 30 minute break must be taken).

•Explosives haulers are allowed to count 30-minute on-duty “breaks” as their required off duty time (provided that they do not do any work during the break). The time is to be logged on duty, with an explanation included in the remarks (the explanation needs to state that the on-duty time was a “rest break”;).

•Allowing only one 34-hour restart in the last 168 hours (168 hours are “seven days” from the time right now). The driver cannot start another 34 hour restart until 168 hours have passed since the start of the driver’s last 34-hour restart. If the driver has multiple 34-hour or longer breaks in a 168 hour period, the driver must designate in the remarks section of his/her log which break is being used as a restart.

•To be considered a “valid” 34-hour restart break, the break will have to include two 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. periods. If the driver does not get the two 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. periods during the 34-hour break, the driver cannot use the break as a restart.

Since the new rules that must be complied with as of July 1, 2013, are more stringent than the “old” rules, “voluntary compliance” is allowed at any time after February 27, 2012.


Carrier impact due to these changes


These changes are going to have a larger impact on certain segments of the industry – particularly the truckload carriers (both for-hire and private) that have regional drivers that run long runs and carriers that have over-the-road drivers. This is because these are the drivers that have typically been using multiple restarts.


Don’t delay training, and don’t confuse the drivers!


Carriers will want to thoroughly train drivers, driver supervisors (dispatchers), customer service and sales personnel (the personnel that communicate with customers), log auditors, safety personnel, and anyone else who works with the drivers on these changes. The trick is going to be to develop a training program that does not confuse the July 1, 2013, changes with the changes that must be complied with in February of 2012.


Also, carriers will need to remember to update their policies and procedures that reference the hours-of-service regulations at the appropriate times to reflect the changes (this may require a two-stage approach as well).


If it wasn’t discussed, it’s not changing!


One of the interesting things about these changes is what did not change. There are no changes to the driving limit (it remains at 11 hours), how the 14-hour limit works (there is no “on-duty limit” attached to the 14-hour rule as was proposed), and the exception provided in §395.1 such as the oilfield and short haul exceptions (there were no actual changes to these rules, only clarifications).

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