Officially, the Hours of Service (HOS) rules took effect when it was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 27, 2011. The industry was given 18 months to become compliant with the new rules. Mandatory compliance took effect July 1, 2013. Most of the rules put in place by the FMCSA concerning hours of service are relatively easy to understand and simple to follow. Let's take a quick recap of those rules and how they affect drivers each week:
- 11-hour driving limit: Drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours each day, after 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time.
- 14-hour limit: Drivers may not drive beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty each day, following 10 consecutive hours of off-duty time. Off-duty time during the 14 hours does not extend the 14-hour period.
- Rest breaks: A driver may not drive more than eight hours without taking a 30-minute break, either off-duty or in the sleeper berth. Drivers need to be aware that this does not mean they have to take only one 30-minute break in the 11-hour driving limit. For example, if a driver begins his or her shift and takes a 30-minute break after two hours of driving, he or she would have to take another 30-minute break before reaching the 11-hour maximum of driving time that day. Plan your break carefully.
- Sleeper berth provision: Drivers using the sleeper berth provision must take at least eight consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate two consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty or any combination of the two.
- 34-hour restart: (This has possibly generated the most questions and confusion concerning the HOS rules.) A driver may not drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. At that point, a driver may restart the 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty, which includes two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. home terminal time. The 34-hour restart may be used only once each week and the restart period begins 168 hours from the beginning of the previous restart. (I will talk more about this below.) It’s important to remember that while your ability to use multiple restarts in your work week to reset available work hours to 70 has been limited, many drivers will find that using the old recap system to account for hours used will still leave you with time to drive within the 70 maximum hours permissible in an 8-day window. Since the new rule limits you to using the restart once in 7 days, you may be better off not using a two-day weekend at home for your restart, instead preserving its use for when you are away from home. Remember: If you were using two restarts each week under the previous rule to simply restart your 70 hour clock, it is a rare circumstance where you could have been exhausting the available 70 hours in 8 days.
- 10-hour driving limit: Drivers may drive a maximum of 10 hours after eight consecutive hours of off-duty time.
- 15-hour limit: Drivers may not drive after having been on duty for 15 hours, following eight consecutive hours of off-duty time. Off-duty time is not included in the 15-hour period.
- 60/70-hour limit: A driver may not drive after reaching the 60/70-hour limit on duty in a 7/8 consecutive day period.
- Sleeper berth provision: Drivers using a sleeper berth must take at least eight hours in the sleeper berth and may split the sleeper berth time into two periods, provided neither time is less than two hours.
As I said before, the 34-hour restart seems to be the area with the largest point of contention. Because a driver must be off duty for 34 consecutive hours and that period must include two consecutive periods off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. home terminal time, some are confused about the best way to handle the requirement.
Planning, once again, is the best way to use the 34-hour restart. For example, if you complete your 60/70-hour limit and begin your 34-hour off duty requirement on a Friday at 7 p.m., your second two consecutive 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods will end on Sunday at 5 a.m., allowing your new workweek to begin at that point.
One of the questions we fielded recently was from a driver who was concerned he could not get back to his home base by the end of his 60/70 hour maximum to begin his 34-hour restart. The phrase "home base time" does not mean the 34-hour restart period has to take place at your home base. It simply means the time in which the driver is working is the time from his or her home base. For instance, using the example I stated above for the restart, if a driver is based in South Carolina, but is in California and reaches the end of his or her 60/70 hour maximum at 7 p.m. Eastern Time, it is only 4 p.m. Pacific Time. The official time for the restart is based on Eastern Time. Therefore, the driver could legitimately begin the next week of hours at 2:00:01 a.m. Pacific Time Sunday, because the home base is situated in the Eastern Time Zone.
Likewise, a driver from the West Coast who finds himself or herself on the Eastern seaboard when their hours expire at 7 p.m. Pacific Time (10 p.m. Eastern) would have to wait until 8 a.m. Eastern on Sunday to begin their new week of hours.
Time, ultimately, will tell whether FMCSA's prediction of cost savings and a reduction in fatalities and injuries will take place with the new rules that are designed to strengthen safety. There have been many arguments back and forth on those topics. For now, drivers must concentrate on complying with the new rules and finding out what works best for them. I wish each and every one of you good luck and prosperity. Use a little bit of planning and make the new rules work for you.