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Proposal Limits Behind-the-Wheel Hours For Truck Drivers

January 11, 2011

Recently, the federal Transportation Department proposed a new regulation which would set limits on the number of hours commercial truck drivers could work in a day. The proposal was created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as part of a settlement agreement to set new limits on truck driver hours-of-service.

The rule is intended to keep truck drivers alert on the road and focused on driving safely, and to reduce motor vehicle accidents.

Under the current rule, truck drivers are allowed to be behind the wheel up to 11 hours daily and must take a 34-hour break between the end of one week and start of another.

Under the rule proposed by the Transportation Department, truck drivers would have a maximum behind-the-wheel time of 10 hours. The proposed rule would also limit work days to 14 hours, and require a one hour break.

Commercial truck drivers would be required to take two consecutive breaks from midnight to six a.m. as part of their 60 to 70 hour work week. Additionally drivers may have to count as off-duty hours spent in park, but would be allowed to log two 16-hour shifts per week, as in the current rule. The proposal retains the 34-hour “restart” provision but it could only be used once in a seven day period and off duty time would fall in the nighttime hours.

The American Trucking Associations trade group opposes the proposal, and says that it is overly complicated, will reduce productivity and drive up consumer prices. They also feel that the current rule is sufficient for truck driver safety, and that the new rules are unnecessary. Others feel that the new rules will improve truck driver safety and help to reduce truck accidents.

The proposed rule would impose civil fines for drivers up to $2,750 for each violation. Companies could be fined up to $11,000 for every offense.

The proposal was published in the federal register on December 29 and opened up for public comment for 60 days. The court settlement requires that the Transportation Department impose new limits by the end of July.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “Truck Drivers May Face 10-Hour Limit on Road,” Ryan Tracy, 23 Dec 2010.

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