The FMCSA’s hours-of-service final ruling has arrived.

The FMCSA’s hours-of-service final ruling has arrived.

Photo" Work Truck

On Dec. 27, 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued its final ruling on revisions to the hours-of-service (HOS) rules, which regulate driving and work-time of commercial vehicle operators (10,001-lb. GVWR and larger) to “help prevent fatigue-related truck crashes and save lives.”

Despite legal challenges by trucking groups, including the American Trucking Associations (ATA), arguing that the HOS changes would be too burdensome and expensive for fleets and may actually undermine the government’s intent to improve driver safety, the new HOS rules are still on track to go into effect July 1, 2013.

Reviewing Changes to HOS

The first step is to understand exactly what changes to expect. Here are highlights of the FMCSA’s hours-of-service final ruling. (Details are available online at

Eleven-hour daily driving limit retained. Although safety organizations and labor groups pressed the FMSCA to reduce the driving limit from 11 hours to 10, the agency kept the current 11-hour limit with the caveat that it will “continue to conduct data analysis and research to further examine any risks associated with the 11 hours of driving time.”
Maximum weekly work hours. Under the old rule, truck drivers could work up to 82 hours within a seven-day period. The new HOS final rule limits a driver’s workweek to a maximum 70 hours.

Mandatory 30-minute break. 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 anytime during the eight-hour window.

Thirty-four-hour restart. Drivers who maximize their weekly work hours must take at least 34 consecutive hours off, including two consecutive periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. The final rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a 168-hour (seven-day) period. Under the previous rule, drivers could take their 34-hour restart more than once a week, without the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. requirement.

Egregious violations. The previous rule did not clearly define maximum penalties for non-compliance. Under the new rule, trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed the 11-hour driving limit by three or more hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers themselves could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

According to the FMCSA, drivers most likely to be affected by the final ruling are long-haul truckload drivers who work more than 70 hours per week on a continuing basis. Local drivers and less-than-truckload drivers who rarely work more than five days per week are not likely to be affected.

The chart above summarizes changes to the 2011 hours-of-service rule provisions.

The chart above summarizes changes to the 2011 hours-of-service rule provisions.  

Photo: fmcsa

Analyzing the Impact

How will the new HOS rules impact business for fleets (and drivers)?

According to Dixie Burbank, vice president with ITS Compliance Inc., a transportation industry compliance and risk management consulting company, the 34-hour restart concerns her clients the most.

“When FMSCA first came out with the 34-hour restart [in 2003], drivers could, theoretically, work 70 hours in four days, take a 34-hour restart, and be back on the road,” Burbank said. “Now, they’ve got to cut back [on hours].”

The impact? “Night deliveries and night operations, especially for the long-haul truckers, will really have to revamp their schedule,” Burbank said.

“Since most deliveries in corporate areas are done at night, drivers could use daytime hours for the 34-hour restart. But, now that the provision requires two four-hour periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., it will cause these fleets to have to drastically readjust their dispatch.”

John Vosters, vice president of business development, also with ITS, agreed. “A big fallout from this change is delivery time frame,” Vosters said. “Under the new rules, those nighttime deliveries might no longer be available, which will cause a downstream effect on scheduling at the shipper’s location. And, it will more than likely require more dispatch resources and additional drivers.”

But, not all drivers and/or fleets that operate commercial vehicles (above 10,000-lbs. GVWR) will be affected by the 34-hour restart.

“With most private carriers, their drivers only work five days per week and have two full days off anyway,” Burbank said. “It’s the long-haul, coast-to-coast fleets that will have to change the way they do business.”

While the 30-minute mandatory break isn’t expected to create any major changes to fleet operations, it will require more driver education to ensure drivers log their break every day. “In the past, they never had to log [breaks] because they never ran up against the 70-hour limit,” Burbank explained. “It’s going to take a bit more education to make sure drivers understand their requirements when they’re logging, so there’s a learning curve.”  

Preparing for July 1, 2013

What can affected fleets do to prepare?

“We examine our clients’ current patterns and historical data of their hours they are operating under with the current rules. Then we’ll apply those hours to the new rules to see where the gaps are,” said Vosters with ITS. “We’ll then be able to determine whether there’s, for example, a 3-percent variance or a 10-percent variance of what may be affected in their operation. Say you have a 100-driver fleet. If there’s a 3-percent gap, you may need to add two or three more drivers. In a 10-
percent scenario, then you may need to find 10-percent more drivers to add to your fleet.” 

Mike Butsch, director global fleet operations for Joy Global, which manufactures and services heavy machinery used in underground and surface mining sites worldwide, agreed.

“Some companies must operate regulated vehicles all the time, while other companies, like us, can work around [the regulations] from jobsite perspective. We have a little more creative flexibility from a service side. From a commuting standpoint, one of the things we do with our trucks to help reduce the impact of [the new HOS rules] is to put a [regulated] service truck at the worksite and then we’ll use a non-regulated vehicle for transport to and from the hotel,” Butsch said. “This way, if the drivers are out of the hours of service, they are not violating that regulation. If we have to, we’ll send out a driver that has hours available to bring the truck back.”

Mark Rousseau, director of transportation operations with Frito-Lay Inc., said his company has begun adapting its operations to comply with the regulations in a way that minimizes impact on the business.

“We’re considering changing our network to include more relays to avoid layovers, modifying delivery windows to improve optimization of runs, and possibly adding more team runs,” he said. 

Rousseau’s advice to other fleet managers: “Analyze current runs that are more than 13 hours to see if there will be any impact to your business. Also, review how many drivers utilize the current restart provisions to determine the potential impact if nothing else changes. Then, after understanding the possible impact to your network, review mitigation ideas to determine where they apply. You must also consider the impact on any common carriers currently used.” 

According to Vosters with ITS, now is the time to plan and respond. “Once the new regs hit July 1, you no longer have the opportunity to be proactive — you’ll be reactive. That’s going to affect your shipper relations and other things that will impact your time. Run what-if scenarios so you’ll have the opportunity to deal with it — and not be caught by surprise,” he recommended. 

About the author
Sean Lyden

Sean Lyden


Sean Lyden was a contributing author for Bobit publications for many years.

View Bio