Written By: Will Bryan and Ross Plyler
Collins & Lacy, P.C.
Columbia, South Carolina
The new hours of service regulations went into effect this month. The new rules are expected to cause a loss of operating flexibility and productivity and may or may not lead to improvement in safety or the projected savings anticipated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The American Trucking Association (ATA) offered its opinion that the rule changes are not supported by the evidence.
One thing that is certain is the cost and frustration associated with adjusting to the new rules will be borne by carriers and drivers.
Whether or not you believe the propaganda created by the FMCSA regarding the expected benefits of the new paradigm, the rules, as of July 1, have changed. Here is a summary:
a. The maximum average work week for truck drivers is reduced from 82 hours to 70 hours;
b. Exceeding the permitted driving/on-duty time by more than three hours qualifies as an “egregious” violation.
c. The 34-hour restart provision allows a driver to continue driving after he reaches 70 hours, provided he has 34 hours rest, which must include 2 nights (defined as 1:00 a.m. – 5:00 a.m.);
d. The new rules retained the 11-hour driving time limit but placed a limit on the number of consecutive driving hours by instituting a requirement for a 30-minute break after 8 hours;
e. The new rules also retained the 14-hour day, which is now called a “driving window.” With the new requirement for 30-minute breaks, the maximum on-duty time within the 14-hour window is 13.5 hours.
The 30-minute break requirements will affect nearly all carriers. Long haul drivers, in particular, will be affected by the new rules – especially when they run out of time in the middle of a route.
Additionally, these changes will have implications beyond the obvious effect on drivers. Driver managers and dispatch will have to adjust their procedures and expectations to accommodate the changes. The sales team and other persons in contact with shippers, brokers, etc., will have to prepare them for the realities of the new rules.
The new rules will inevitably arise in the courtroom when Plaintiff’s counsel cites the defendant’s “egregious” violation as Exhibit A in his case for punitive damages. Therefore, carriers and drivers are encouraged to become familiar with the rules and follow them.
1FMCSA’s news release announcing the new rules predicted “an estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health.”
For more information about Collins & Lacy, or to contact one of their South Carolina transportation lawyers who represent motor carriers and their drivers and other trucking interests, please visit www.collinsandlacy.com or the International Society of Primerus Law Firms.