Do Laws Regulate the Amount of Time a Trucker Spends on the Road?

Yes. In 1939, the Federal Government passed regulations to limit the hours of service (HOS), that truck drivers could operated their commercial motor vehicles. Although much has happened with U.S. highways since, 1939, those HOS regulations remained the same.

In 1995 Congress directed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to study the effect of fatigue of commercial motor vehicle crashes and to reform those HOS regulations. In response, FMCSA conducted scientific research, reviewed tens of thousands of comments to the rule making process and employed experts to review the issues.

In April 2003, FMCSA made the first meaningful revision to the HOS regulations in more than 60 years. The new regulations go into effect on January 4, 2004. These new rules have attempted to balance the increased opportunity for drivers to obtain necessary rest with the realities of operation by commercial motor vehicle carriers.

The new rules allow drivers to drive 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours of off-duty. Also, 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. Drivers may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming on-duty following 10 hours off duty.

Short haul drivers are allowed to be on-duty for a period of 16 hours once during any seven consecutive day period.

The old rule allowed 10 hours of driving after an 8 hour period of off-duty time. Drivers were also not allowed to drive after their 15th hour on duty in a workday or after 60 hours on duty time in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in on duty eight consecutive days.

Although the new rules purportedly appease truck drivers who argue that better equipment and roads should translate into more driving time, in reality the difference is a net loss of HOS per 24 hours. The new rules allow a driver to drive 14 of 24 hours. The old rules allowed 15 of 24 hours of driving time.

The HOS rules govern drivers who transport freight through interstate commerce whose vehicle has a gross weight rating of 10,001 pounds. Drivers of buses involved in interstate transportation will continue to use the old HOS regulations.

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