November 18, 2003
Source: Ford & Harrison
Takes Effect January 2004The Department of Transportation (DOT) will begin enforcing its new hours of service regulation for truck drivers on January 3, 2004. The new regulation changes the required rest time and duty time for commercial vehicle drivers and the manner in which duty time is calculated. The government estimates the new regulation will cost trucking companies about $1.3 billion a year, although some affected by the changes believe the cost impact will be greater.The new regulation, which was published in April 2003, is the first revision of the hours of service regulation since it was enacted in 1939. The purpose of the revision is to improve highway safety and help reduce the number of truck crashes and related fatalities and injuries by addressing commercial motor vehicle driver fatigue.The new rules increase the time that truck drivers must set aside to rest in a twenty-four hour duty period from eight hours to ten. The total time a driver can be on duty will fall from 15 hours to 14 hours. The new regulation does, however, allow drivers to spend eleven hours on duty, which is one more hour than they are currently permitted. Similar to existing rules, drivers may not drive after being on-duty for 60 hours in a seven-consecutive-day period or 70 hours in an eight-consecutive-day period. This on-duty cycle may be restarted whenever a driver takes at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty.Short-haul truck drivers (those drivers who routinely return to their place of dispatch after each duty tour and then are released from duty) may have an increased on-duty period of 16 hours once during any seven-consecutive-day period.Another significant change is that the new regulation requires drivers to include as work hours the time spent waiting at loading docks or refueling. Under the current rule, this time is not counted as working time. Thus, under the new rule, delays at loading docks and refueling could become quite costly to trucking companies.The rule applies to drivers transporting freight in interstate commerce in a property-carrying commercial vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more and operating vehicles carrying hazardous materials in quantities requiring vehicle placards.
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