New Hours-of-Service Laws for Commercial Drivers Intended to Curb Fatigue, Accidents

by cherio_056 on June 6, 2013

Some law enforcement agencies and companies in the commercial trucking industry were hoping that the American Trucking Association would be able to delay the mandatory compliance deadline for the new hours of service (HOS) regulations in order to gain more time to train officers and update schedules and automated systems. However, the request by the ATA was denied, and changes regarding HOS by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) go into effect on July 1, 2013.

ATA’s letter said that in setting the revised rule, FMCSA noted that “industry and law enforcement may need extra time to train personnel and to adjust schedules and automated systems.”

“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.”

Adapting to new rules

Given the relationship between truck accidents and driver fatigue, the new HOS regulations aim to improve driver performance by ensuring that drivers get adequate rest. Specifically, these three new regulations most affect the daily routines of commercial drivers:

·         Shorter Work Week: The new rules reduce the number of hours that a driver can work. Instead of the 82 hours that drivers could work in a week under the old guidelines, the new rules limit drive time to a maximum of 60 hours in a seven-day period.

·         More Rest to Restart: The 34-hour restart rule is a major overhaul; it means that drivers must rest or otherwise be off-duty for a period of 34 consecutive hours before beginning (or restarting) a new work week. Further, a restart must include two off-duty periods that fall from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. — due to data that indicates drivers have more accidents during these early-morning hours than at other times of day or night. Only one restart is permitted in any given week.

·         Periodic Breaks: Drivers must take at least one 30-minute break in each 8-hour period of driving per the new regulations. A break includes all off-duty time and meals.

Companies and drivers that violate the new HOS rules may face the maximum penalties for each offense. That is, trucking companies can face an $11,000 fine for each occurrence of allowing a driver to exceed drive-time limits, and drivers themselves may face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

Documenting time

Commercial drivers are required to document their primary activities, including drive time, mileage, rest time, fuel management and other metrics of the job; these records are known as a logbook or driver log. Traditionally, drivers record their information with pen and paper, but electronic logbooks are becoming more popular. Among the top benefits of an electronic driver log are information accuracy and credibility.

In other words, drivers who find it difficult to comply with the new HOS regulations may resort to falsifying their logbooks in order to appear legitimate on paper. If caught being dishonest in their records, a driver may be found negligent in a court of law. For example, a recent case in Illinois found that a driver had a false logbook following an accident. Fatigue and speeding were deciding factors in the accident occurrence, and both factors were related to the fraudulent driver log. Therefore the driver may be cited for negligence, which may be used in a civil claim for damages.

In cases of accidents and other situations when a driver’s culpability is in question, records provided by an electronic on-board recorder (EOBR) can provide a credible record of activity. That is, an EOBR automatically records critical data, such as driver rest periods, fuel economy and routes, and provides a computerized version of the driver log. Using EOBRs, such as those by Omnitracs, allows drivers to stay compliant without doing any paperwork, which is a tedious and time-consuming chore. Electronic driver logs also alert drivers to when they need to stop and take a break, which further enhances safety and compliance without requiring a driver to monitor this him/herself.




Previous post:

Next post: