SPECIAL REPORT: No changes to HOS, 11th hour and 34-hour restart stay

| 11/18/2008

Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008 – Truckers won’t be learning yet another set of hours-of-service regulations because there aren’t going to be any changes to the regs when the “new” final rule goes into effect in January 2009.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently submitted the latest in a long line of final rules outlining the hours-of-service regs governing the trucking industry.

The new final rule adopts the interim rule that the truckers are running under right now, according to a copy of the final rule obtained by Land Line Magazine. The final rule will go into effect on Jan. 19, 2009.

This marks yet another attempt by the agency to put the HOS debate to bed. The embattled regulation has been contested in court numerous times where it was tossed out entirely in 2004 and with two key provisions eliminated in 2007 because of procedural problems.

The final rule submitted to the Federal Register reflects FMCSA’s attempt to rectify the procedural issues it encountered when it added the 11th hour of driving and the optional 34-hour restart provision.

In July 2007, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit tossed the provision that increased driving time to 11 hours from 10 hours and the 34-hour restart provision.

The two provisions were tossed by the court based on procedural grounds – not on safety concerns.

The agency sought comments through the early part of 2008 on the interim rules truckers are currently working under. The interim final rule posted on the Federal Register Dec. 17, 2007. The agency left the current hours-of-service regulations as is, including the 11th hour of driving and the optional 34-hour restart provision.

Agency officials decided to propose keeping the current rules rather than create confusion within the trucking industry and the enforcement community by issuing revisions to the rule.

“This proposal keeps in place hours-of-service limits that improve highway safety by ensuring that drivers are rested and ready to work,” FMCSA Administrator John H. Hill said in a press release.

Those sentiments were echoed strongly in the interim final rule.

“Uncertainty is the enemy of enforcement and compliance; it can only impair highway safety,” FMCSA officials wrote in the interim final rule. “This (interim final rule) will ensure that a familiar, uniform set of national rules govern motor carrier transportation, while FMCSA gathers additional public comments on all aspects of this interim final rule.

“By re-adopting the 11-hour limit and the 34-hour restart, the agency’s intent is to allow motor carriers and drivers to combine work-rest schedules that follow the optimal 24-hour circadian cycle (10 hours off duty and 14 hours on duty) while maintaining highway safety with operational flexibility.”

– By Jami Jones, senior editor