As thoughts of summer begin to take hold with the lead-in to the Memorial Day weekend, Wheels reminded its accounts and fleets in general that a 2011 law revising the federal hours-of-service requirements for commercial truck drivers in the U.S. will be enforced starting July 1.

The law, enacted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), reduces the maximum number of hours the driver of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) can work per week. Under the old rules, CMV drivers could work an average of up to 82 hours within a seven-day period. The new rules limit a driver’s weekly on-duty time to 70 hours, after which he or she must “restart” his or her weekly clocks with at least 34 consecutive hours of off-duty time. As part of this provision, drivers who maximize their weekly work hours must take at least two nights’ rest from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. during the 34 hour restart period.

The new law retains the 11-hour daily driving limit (within the 14-hour duty window) after 10 consecutive off-duty hours. However, CMV drivers now cannot be on duty for more than eight consecutive hours without taking a break of at least 30 minutes. Drivers can take the 30-minute break at any time during the eight-hour period; however, if eight hours of consecutive on duty time have elapsed without rest, the driver must immediately take a 30-minute break before driving. The 30 minute rest break does not apply to carriers in Alaska if they are using the Alaska exemption.

Companies should be aware that under the new rule, driving for three or more hours beyond the daily driving-time limit of 11 hours could be considered an “egregious” violation, Wheels noted.  Companies whose drivers commit such violations face fines of up to $11,000 for each offense, while individual drivers can be fined up to $2,750.

The new law, which was originally published in December of 2011, has technically been in effect since February 27, 2012.  But the “grace period” implemented by the FMCSA has postponed active enforcement of the law until July 1, 2013.

For additional details regarding the new law and information on what type of vehicle qualifies as a CMV, please visit the FMCSA’s website.