U.S. Department of Transportation Issues New Rules Regulating Work and Sleep Schedules for Commercial Truck Drivers
New Rules Based on Review of Medical Research and Traffic Safety Data
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) today issued a new Hours-of-Service rule that spells out the length of time commercial drivers can operate trucks before they are required to take a break. The new rule is the product of years of research meant to keep the Big Rig Trucker population healthy and make highways safer, officials said today.
The new rule replaces Hours-of-Service regulations that were last updated in 2003. Parts of the rule, including the maximum driving time and minimum rest limits remain the same. However, the rule unveiled today includes changes affecting short-haul operators and longer distance Big Rig Trucker Drivers who use in-cab sleeper-berths for their rest.
“This new rule will help keep drivers healthy and make our roads safer,” said Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta. “Drivers that are well rested are less likely to lose control, crash, or injure others.”
“The research shows that this new rule will improve driver health and safety and the safety of our roadways,” said FMCSA Administrator Annette M. Sandberg. “Ensuring drivers obtain necessary rest and restorative sleep will save lives.”
As in the 2003 regulations, the new rule prohibits truckers from driving more than eleven hours in a row, working longer than 14 hours in a shift and driving more than 60 hours over a seven day period or 70 hours over an eight day period, Administrator Sandberg said. In addition, the new rule requires truckers to rest for at least ten hours between shifts and provides a 34-hour period to recover from cumulative fatigue.
FMCSA said it tasked driver health and safety experts to review over 1,000 health- and fatigue-related articles and studies and considered thousands of comments received from drivers, truck companies, safety advocates and researchers before settling on the new safety provisions. Based on this research, FMCSA concluded the new rule will keep drivers healthy and reduce the 5.5 percent of fatal truck crashes that are caused by driver fatigue.
The most important change under the new rule now allows short-haul operators not required to hold a commercial drivers license, like landscape crews and delivery drivers who work within a 150 mile radius of their starting point, to extend their work day twice a week. They also will no longer have to maintain logbooks. The change was prompted by safety data that show short haul drivers make up over half the commercial fleet yet are involved in less than seven percent of the nation’s fatigue-related fatal truck crashes, Administrator Sandberg said.
Another change contained in the new rule requires truckers who use sleeper-berths to rest for eight hours in a row, and take another two consecutive hours off duty before resetting their daily driving schedule. Studies show that drivers are less likely to be fatigued if they take a single eight hour block of rest than if they break their rest into smaller periods of time as they were allowed under the previous rule.
As in 2003, the new rule announced today applies only to commercial truck drivers, and not to passenger motor coach operators. Motor coach drivers are still covered by the Hours-of-Service rules in effect prior to 2003.
The new rule will go into effect October 1, 2005. Sandberg pledged to work with states and the trucking community for the first three months the rule is in effect allowing them time to update educational materials, train employees and re-program driving schedules. During this transitional period, FMCSA and state law enforcement officials will monitor carriers for egregious violations of the new rule and pursue enforcement action where necessary, she said. For more information, or to review the new Hours-of-Service rule for a Big Rig Trucker, please go to www.fmsca.dot.gov.