The FMCSA released the revised Hours of Service Rule for all North American carriers yesterday earlier than expected. It was announced earlier in the month that the rule would be handed down sometime in early 2012. The new rule preserves the 11 hour driving shift from previous guidelines, but tightens the 34 hour restart measure. It also changes the definition of “On Duty Time” as any time spent in the cab, aside from the sleeper berth.
Industry Court Battles Looming Over HOS Rule
As with many industry regulatory overhauls, even marginal changes like the 2011 HOS rule means lengthy court battles from different groups of the transportation sector. Noting that the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., has twice rejected the 11-hour provision, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety said yesterday in a statement that it is “confident that the court will reach the same result when this new rule comes before it for judgment.”
Advocates vice president and general counsel Henry Jasny added that while the group still is considering its next move, “Unless there’s something we haven’t seen, our expectation is that we will be back in court.”
How the FMCSA Justifies the Change to the HOS Rule
Here’s how the FMCSA made its argument in a press statement released on Friday, Dec. 23rd:
- FMCSAs 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 drivers 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 rules 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.
The FMCSA went on to say, “There is no “compelling scientific evidence” that a 10-hour driving limit produces enough safety benefits to outweigh the strong evidence that an 11-hour limit may have higher net benefits.
“The research literature on fatigue in the motor carrier industry generally shows that crash risk increases with work hours, both daily and weekly,” the agency said in its analysis. “The available data, however, are not sufficiently robust to yield a statistically significant distinction between the crash risk associated with any two adjacent hours of work.” The agency added that it plans to do a comprehensive analysis of crash risk by driving hour, and is open to reconsidering the provision.
More news as events in Washington D.C. develop.