Department of Transportation Changes Laws for Truck Driver Work Hours

The Department of Transportation (DOT) announced on December 22, 2011 that it was changing laws in order to reduce commercial truck driver fatigue. The updated rules revise the hours-of-service (HOS) for truck drivers so that they aren’t forced to be on the road for extended periods without rest.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a division of the DOT, accumulated information and statisitcs from sources in the trucking community, like commercial truck insurance companies, trucking businesses, and law enforcement. In addition, they hosted public forums around the country to get direct input from truck drivers.

In the end, the new rule from the FMCSA reduces a truck driver’s maximum weekly work hours by 12. The previous maximum was 82 hours; the new HOS rule changes that to 70 hours.

Also, commercial truck drivers are required to take a thirty minute break after a shift of 8 hours. This is designed to reduce the tension caused by long shifts.

There will be a “34-hour restart” provision implemented as well, which allows the driver to restart his or her work week by taking a consecutive 34-hour break.

Finally, one aspect of the old rules was maintained: the 11-hour driving limit in a day. Further research is being done to determine if this time limit is appropriate.

One reason behind the rules changes is that they force truck drivers to get at least two-nights of rest to restore their bodies. Drivers who maximize their work week still need sleep during the body’s key resting hours from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.

Fines for these offenses will be high, with some exceeding $10,000. The purpose is to keep the roads safer for truckers and pedestrians and hopefully the rule changes help in that regard.

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