Hours of Service Q & A:

Acuity Insurance Company recently published an article answer common questions regarding the new Hours of Service rules that took effect July 1, 2013.  With their permission, we are reprinting the article here for your reference:


The first phase of Hours of Service (HOS) changes mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) took affect February 27, 2012, adding new criteria for on-duty time and penalties for exceeding allowable time.  The second phase took effect July 1, 2013, and included more restrictive rules in two areas: mandating rest breaks and limiting “restarts.”


Here are the answers to some common questions about the new regulations:


30-Minute Rest Breaks Rule Summary:  If more than eight consecutive hours on duty have passed since the last off-duty period of at least half an hour, a driver must take an off-duty or sleeper-berth break of at least 30 minutes before driving.


Q: Why are these required?

A: The FMCSA found that breaks reduce risks, including accidents and safety lapses, cause by long driving shifts.


Q: Do I have to spend the break resting?

A: No, but you must be off duty.  For instance, a lunch break could count as your 30 minutes.


Q: Can the break be spent loading or unloading, as long as I’m out of the cab?

A: No.  Time spent loading or unloading is considered on duty in most cases.


Q: Do I have to break right at the eight-hour mark if my shift is longer than eight hours?

A: No.  You can break earlier, but you must not drive more than eight consecutive hours.  For instance, a 10-hour drive can be broken into two 5-hour shifts separated by a break.


Q: Is break time included in the 14-hour duty limit?

A: Yes.  The 30-minute break cannot extend the work day.


34-Hour Restart Rule Summary: Drivers can only use the 34-hour restart once every seven calendar days (168 hours) to restart the 60- or 70- hour clock.  In addition, the restart must include two nighttime periods of 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., using the driver’s home terminal time zone.


Q: Why was this change made?

A: The purpose of the rule change is to limit work to no more than 70 hours a week, which is aimed at reducing fatigue, crashes, and driver health problems.


Q: Who will be affected by the two0night provision?

A: Only drivers who drive nights and work more than 60 or 70 hours in a week will be impacted.


Q: What is the minimum length of time a driver has to be off duty to get credit for the two nighttime periods?

A: The minimum period is 34 hours.  Most drivers driving daytime schedules will be able to obtain the two nights in a 34-hour restart, if needed.  Only drivers who regularly drive overnight and work more than five nights a week will need to take longer to restarts to obtain the two nights off.


Q: If a driver works 10 hours a night, six nights a week and takes the seventh night off, does he then have to take an extra night off?

A: No, the driver would be working 60 hours in seven days and would not need a restart to start working again on the eighth day.
Q: Are the two nighttime periods based on the driver’s terminal time or local time, when different?

A: Drivers’ logs are based on the time zone of their home terminal, so the two night periods are set by the time at the home terminal.


Note: These illustrations are not legal advice.  If you have a question about a specific scenario or are looking for an official interpretation related to these changes, please contact the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at (609) 275-2604.

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