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Truck Topics

New Hours of Service: A Little Chaotic and Confusing

By Sandy Long
Posted Oct 5th 2013 12:26AM

July 1, 2013 the newest changes to the hours of service that govern a trucker’s working day went into full effect. While a few are reporting little difference in their operation, many say that they are having trouble adapting to the changes.

The changes are that a driver must take a mandatory half hour brake within 8 hours of the start of their working day and the previous 34 hour break to renew the 70 hours now must contain two periods from 1 am to 5 am.  Also, the restart cannot be taken more than 168 hours after the start of the last restart break. The half hour break is in response to many drivers telling the FMCSA that they needed flexibility in their workday hours and some who said they had no time for even a lunch break once they started working. The change in the restart provisions is supposedly to stop drivers from taking more than one restart in a week and to provide them with more opportunity to be rested.

While the intentions of the FMCSA might be good, there is a lot of confusion and concerns especially about the new restart provisions. The regulation states,

“After June 30, 2013, any period of 8 consecutive days may end with the beginning of an off-duty period of 34 or more consecutive hours that includes two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.”

“After June 30, 2013, a driver may not take an off-duty period allowed by paragraph (c) of this section to restart the calculation of 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days until 168 or more consecutive hours have passed since the beginning of the last such off-duty period. When a driver takes more than one off-duty period of 34 or more consecutive hours within a period of 168 consecutive hours, he or she must indicate in the Remarks section of the record of duty status which such off-duty period is being used to restart the calculation of 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days.”

The regulation is fairly clear though perhaps the reasoning behind it is less so. Most drivers do not understand why taking more than one restart break in 8 days does not give them more rest than one break nor do they understand the reasoning behind the time constraints in the 1 am to 5 am component.

In the Q & A response of the FMCSA, the FMCSA responds, “The goal of this rulemaking is to reduce excessively long work hours that increase both the risk of fatigue-related crashes and long-term health problems for drivers. A rule cannot ensure that drivers will be rested, but it can ensure that they have enough time off to obtain adequate rest on a daily and weekly basis. The objective of this rule, therefore, is to reduce both acute and chronic fatigue by limiting the maximum number of hours per day and week that the drivers can work. The rule reduces a driver’s average maximum allowable hours of work per week from 82 hours to 70 hours, a 15% reduction. The 15% reduction in the average maximum allowable hours of work based on the new rule results from the restrictions on the use of the restart period.”

John, an owner operator who runs coast to coast, relates that his income has dropped approximately $500.00 a week due to the increased restart times. “I have had to go back to the old way of logging which does not work well in the just in time delivery atmosphere of today. I still have not figured out where they came up with the 82 hour deal, 70 hours in 8 days is 70 hours in 8 days, period.”

The major concern from drivers, besides the loss of income, is lack of parking due to everyone starting out at 5 am their home terminal time. This puts most drivers who use the restart provision on the road in a 4-hour span, taking into account time zones that conversely put those drivers into parking at the end of their day in the same 4-hour span. Truckers are having to have second and third choices of where they are going to park up at the end of their day to make sure they can find parking and are parking up earlier. Truck stops and rest areas are filling up earlier and more on ramps are being utilized for parking than ever before.

The only ones gaining it seems is the police who are writing parking tickets by the book full. Marty, a driver from Wyoming reported that he looked at three truck stops for parking before his time ran out and couldn’t find a spot. “Even the creative parking spots were gone at all three at 6 pm local time when my time was running out, I had no choice but to hit the nearest on ramp. Yep, you guessed it; I was woke up by a nice officer and given a ticket for parking there. When I told him why I was there, he didn’t have any other ideas on where I should have gone.”

Other than when to take it, the thirty minute mandatory break is fairly clear cut and not many are having issues with it, though some are saying that finding a place to park for it is at times difficult. Mary, a company driver running e-logs said that she was going to take her break at a truck stop after fueling, but hit a back up and ended up on the shoulder to take the break to avoid a log violation. “I had to choose between safety and a log violation, what good is that?” she asks.

As the FMCSA continues to put in place further regulations, medical ones are coming up, more chaos and confusion is sure to occur primarily because most drivers do not really understand where the safety factors enter in. Perhaps David, an owner operator has it right, “Somewhere there is money in it for someone, not us drivers though, you can bet on that!”

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