Security-sensitive hazmat haulers get rest break exemption

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 8/20/2015

A group of truckers put in a precarious situation of choosing what regulation to violate once 30-minute rest breaks became mandatory, have been given relief from the requirement by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Security-sensitive hazardous material loads require that the vehicle hauling them be attended at all times. These loads include explosives, weapons and radioactive materials, for example.

That requirement of constant attendance by the driver puts truckers in a quandary as to how to accommodate the required 30-minute rest break that truckers are to take no later than eight hours after getting behind the wheel.

The American Trucking Associations petitioned FMCSA for an exemption from the rest break requirement to allow drivers to be able to comply with the constant attendance regulation. The agency will officially grant that petition on Friday, Aug. 21, in a Federal Register notice.

The exemption will apply to drivers transporting hazmat loads requiring placarding under 49 CFR part 172, subpart F, or select agents and toxins identified in 172.800(b)(13) that do not require placarding, and who have filed security plans requiring constant attendance of the hazardous materials in accordance with 172.800-804.

Only motor carriers with a “satisfactory” safety rating or ones that are unrated are allowed to use the exemption.

The exemption will allow drivers to count up to 30 minutes of their on-duty attendance time toward a required rest break, if they perform no other on-duty activities during the rest-break period. Drivers must have a copy of the exemption document in their possession while operating under the terms of the exemption and must present it to law enforcement officials upon request.

To dissuade drivers from wrongly claiming the exemption and not taking the mandatory rest break when required, FMCSA has directed law enforcement to have the drivers take the required rest break and count it against the 60- or 70-hour workweek limits.

“It should be noted that there is no motive for a driver or carrier to claim this exemption when not entitled to it,” the exemption notice states. “A driver who is not required to constantly attend his or her vehicle must take the minimum 30-minute rest break as off-duty time, which does not count against the seven- or eight-day limit of 60 or 70 hours on-duty. A driver claiming this exemption unnecessarily would be required to take the same rest breaks, but would be on-duty and the time would count against the 60 or 70-hour limit.”

The exemption will be good for two years.

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