Federal regulators announced four major changes to hours of service (HOS) rules that limit working and driving hours and mandate periods of rest for tractor-trailer drivers. The changes relax the current version of HOS rules, parts of which have been in place since mid-2013, allowing commercial truck drivers longer driving hours and greater flexibility.

The rules are intended to combat driver fatigue, which is the leading cause of tractor-trailer accidents in the U.S. Most of the nation’s 1.9 million commercial truck drivers drive long distances over the course of several hours a day with very little rest to break up the time and monotony.

Combined with pressure to deliver goods on time and poor quality of sleep on the road, truck drivers are always straddling a fine line between safety and disaster. Ever since HOS rules were introduced 82 years ago, regulators have delicately attempted to balance commercial needs with safety concerns.

The latest HOS rule reforms, announced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) on May 14, are considered a big win for truck drivers. Many commercial drivers said that the old rules made it more difficult to do their job safely and earn a living.

Under the new rules, drivers may take their required 30-minute rest period after eight hours of consecutive driving instead of within their eight-hour driving period as the old rules mandated.

Truck drivers may now meet the 10-hour off-duty requirement by taking two periods of rest. One period must log at least eight hours in their sleeper berth and at least two hours either in or outside of the sleeper berth. Alternately, they can take a seven- and three-hour split with neither period counting against their 14-day driving window.

The new rules also allow truck drivers to extend their driving window up to two hours if driving in adverse conditions. The current rule already permits an additional two hours under the 11-hour clock, so the new rule expands the 14-hour clock by two hours as well.

Lastly, the new rule extends the maximum on-duty period for short-haul drivers from 12 to 14 hours and increases the radius from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

If you have any questions, contact Mike Crow, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury & Products Liability Section. Mike is one of the lawyers at Beasley Allen who handles trucking litigation for the firm.

Sources: FMCSA and Trucker.com

This story appears in the June 2020 edition of The Jere Beasley Report. Read the Report online, download a PDF, and subscribe to be notified when new issues are released.

Jere L. Beasley, Beasley Allen Founder
Jere Beasley

Jere Beasley, the founding member of Beasley Allen Law Firm, has practiced law as an advocate for victims of wrongdoing since 1962. He was the lead Beasley Allen attorney in the record $11.9 billion award against ExxonMobil Corp. on behalf of the state of Alabama.

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