New Driver Hours-of-Service & What It Really Means

Posted August 6, 2013
On July 01, 2013, new federal regulations designed to improve public safety by reducing driver fatigue took effect. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stresses that a common sense, data-driven approach was taken to heart in the regulatory development process with safety the highest priority.

Trucking companies were provided 18 months to adopt the new hours-of-service rules for truck drivers. First announced in December 2011 by FMCSA, the rules limit the average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours to ensure that all truck operators have adequate rest. It is projected that only the most extreme schedules will be impacted with more than 85 percent of the truck driving workforce experiencing no changes.

Working long daily and weekly hours on a continuing basis is associated with chronic fatigue, a high risk of crashes, and a number of serious chronic health conditions in drivers. The FMCSA estimates the new safety regulations will save 19 lives and prevent approximately 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year while resulting in an estimated savings of $280 from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million from improved driver health.

Here’s a quick summary of the FMCSA's new hours-of-service final rule:

• Limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the current maximum of 82 hours;

• Allows truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week to resume work if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most - from 1-5 a.m.,

• Requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift.

• The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day.

Companies and drivers that commit egregious violations of the rule could face the maximum penalties for each offense. Trucking companies and passenger carriers that allow drivers to exceed driving limits by more than three hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

What does it mean for you?

The regulatory changes will shrink the pool of eligible drivers, increase hiring costs, lessen carrier productivity and unavoidably raise the cost of shipping goods via truck. With drivers regulated to take mandatory rest periods and work less hours, additional drivers will be needed to cover the present workload. This is not good news for an industry already experiencing a workforce shortage of approximately 100,000 drivers.

While trucking companies may be forced to increase compensation and benefits to retain drivers, they will simultaneously be forced to increase recruitment efforts with such costs estimated to be range from $3,000 to $8,000 per driver. For the shipping community, major upward rate exposure is a real possibility. While there is no certainty such an increase will occur, all parties potentially impacted should be prepared by ensuring budget flexibility to off-set the possible increase in cost.

Sincerely

Jerry Becnel
President

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