The DOT (Department of Transportation) has worked tirelessly to help promote and pass rules and regulations that are all aimed at increasing truck driver safety – as well as the safety of the general public. Several key rules have been introduced that have immediately changed the landscape of the trucking industry. Effective July 1st, 2013, new regulations have gone into effect that place tighter restrictions on the working schedule of the American truck driver.
What Are The Biggest Changes? And Why Do They Matter?
Before the new rules went into effect, truckers were able to drive for up to 82 hours per week, and were required to rest for 34 hours before restarting the clock for another 82-hour maximum week. Under the new rules that are currently enforced by the DOT and the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier’s Safety Administration), truckers are limited to a 70-hour workweek. Truckers immediately responded that this effectively reduced earnings potential by 15% or more. Some truckers feel that this ruling will force them to seek a different line of work, as the reduction in earnings will make taking care of their families impossible.
Other provisions that are becoming tiresome to truckers and trucking companies include the mandatory resting period as defined by the FMCSA. This rule requires truckers to refrain from starting a new workweek until at least 34 hours of resting time has elapsed, which must cover two “1am – 5am” time periods. Basically, this regulation is forcing truck drivers to limit night driving (when traffic is light and efficiencies are maximized) and in many cases to sit idle for up to an additional day before departing with a new load.
As an example, if a trucker pulls into a destination on Saturday morning at 8am, they would have to wait until Monday at 5am until they could depart with a new load. Previous regulations would have allowed a driver to depart on Sunday evening – effectively minimizing driving in traffic and allowing the load to get on the road nearly a day sooner. This ruling is causing logistics issues and is forcing many trucking companies to contemplate levying surcharges on customers due to the loss of efficiency. Some trucking companies estimate that this rule alone will cost them upwards of 5% or more in terms of net profit.
Another provision requires a 30-minute break to be taken within the first eight hours of driving time. This isn’t causing as many grumblings as the previous regulations, as many truckers take breaks as is. This rule encompasses the previous 11-hour daily drive time limit, as well as the 14-hour maximum workday rule.
What Happens If Violations Occur?
The DOT and the FMCSA are taking these new rules seriously. Designed to increase driver safety and reduce highway related deaths, the new rulings are being strictly enforced and can result in severe civil penalties if not respected. Drivers who violate the weekly drive time limits of 70 hours per week can be penalized up to $2,750 per offense (more than three hours over the 70-hour limit per week), while the parent trucking company can see an $11,000 fine for the same charge. Additional information regarding these rulings can be found on the FMCSA’s website at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/HOS.