Drivers and motor carriers got a special Christmas present from the FMCSA last Thursday when the long-awaited proposed rule on hours of service was released. There are several significant items that the FMCSA wants to change:

34-hour restart. Many were concerned that this would be eliminated, but the new proposal includes it. However, there are two significant changes. First, the restart period would have to include two consecutive off-duty periods from midnight to 6:00AM. The way that looks to me is that a driver would not be able to do a 34-hour restart unless he/she logged it not earlier than 8:00PM the first day, which would run him or her until 6:00AM 34 hours later on the second day. The second change is that a driver could use the 34-hour restart only once during a seven-day period.

14-hour workday. All drivers would be required to complete all driving within a 14-hour workday, and to complete all on-duty work-related activities within 13 hours to allow for at least a one hour break. My take on this is that drivers still have a 14-hour day, but at least one hour of it must be logged as a break. Can the hour be broken up? It doesn’t say that.

11-hour driving. The FMCSA is leaving open for comment as to whether drivers should be allowed to drive 10 or 11 hours. The FMCSA favors a 10-hour limit. I suspect that is where they want to get the one hour break from, and probably will.

There are some other provisions which would allow drivers two 16-hour shifts twice a week for loading/unloading issues and to allow time parked in the truck to count toward off duty hours.

A major point in the proposed rulemaking is the mention of civil penalties. Drivers could face fines of up to $2,750 for each violation of the proposed rules. Carriers that allow drivers to violate the proposal’s driving limits would face penalties of up to $11,000 for each offense. This is pretty stiff stuff.

The bottom line is this: The FMCSA believes, and rightfully so, that fatigued driving causes accidents. They are committed to doing everything in their power to keep fatigued commercial vehicle drivers from operating on the highway. Both CSA and now the new hours of service proposal should make it abundantly clear to both drivers and motor carriers that they are serious about log books. If you can’t log it legal, you had better not be doing it. Ever.

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