U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced a final rule that employs the latest research in driver fatigue to make sure truck drivers can get the rest they need to operate safely when on the road.
The new rule by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revises the hours-of-service (HOS) safety requirements for commercial truck drivers.
"Trucking is a difficult job, and a big rig can be deadly when a driver is tired and overworked," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "This final rule will help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives.
“Truck drivers deserve a work environment that allows them to perform their jobs safely."
As part of the HOS rulemaking process, FMCSA held six public listening sessions across the country and encouraged safety advocates, drivers, truck company owners, law enforcement and the public to share their input on HOS requirements.
The listening sessions were live webcast on the FMCSA Web site, allowing a broad cross-section of individuals to participate in the development of this safety-critical rule.
"This final rule is the culmination of the most extensive and transparent public outreach effort in our agency's history," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "With robust input from all areas of the trucking community, coupled with the latest scientific research, we carefully crafted a rule acknowledging that when truckers are rested, alert and focused on safety, it makes our roadways safer."
FMCSA's new HOS final rule reduces by 12 hours the maximum number of hours a truck driver can work within a week.
Under the old rule, truck drivers could work on average up to 82 hours within a seven-day period. The new HOS final rule limits a driver's work week to 70 hours.
In addition, truck drivers cannot drive after working eight hours without first taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Drivers can take the 30-minute break whenever they need rest during the eight-hour window.
The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit. FMCSA will continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time.
The rule requires truck drivers who maximize their weekly work hours to take at least two nights' rest when their 24-hour body clock demands sleep the most - from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.
This rest requirement is part of the rule's "34-hour restart" provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.
The final rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period.
Companies and drivers that commit egregious violations of the rule could face the maximum penalties for each offense.
Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by 3 or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.
Commercial truck drivers and companies must comply with the HOS final rule by July 1, 2013. The rule is being sent to the Federal Register today and is currently available on FMCSA's Web site at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/HOSFinalRule.