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July 1, 2013 3:30 PM, EDT

New Hours-of-Service Rule Takes Effect

The new federal hours-of-service rule for truck drivers took full effect Monday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced.

“Safety is our highest priority,” outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “These rules make common sense, data-driven changes to reduce truck driver fatigue and improve safety for every traveler on our highways and roads.”

See related editorial: Fix the HOS ‘Fixes’

First announced in December 2011 by FMCSA, the rules limit the average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours to ensure that all truck operators have adequate rest.

Only the most extreme schedules will be affected, the agency said, adding that “more than 85% of the truck driving workforce will see no changes.”

FMCSA estimated that these new safety regulations will save 19 lives and prevent about 1,400 crashes and 560 injuries each year. 

“These fatigue-fighting rules for truck drivers were carefully crafted based on years of scientific research and unprecedented stakeholder outreach,” FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said.

“The result is a fair and balanced approach that will result in an estimated $280 million in savings from fewer large truck crashes and $470 million in savings from improved driver health.  Most importantly, it will save lives,” Ferro said in a statement.

The final HOS rule:

• Limits the maximum average work week for truck drivers to 70 hours, a decrease from the current maximum of 82 hours.

• Allows truck drivers who reach the maximum 70 hours of driving within a week to resume if they rest for 34 consecutive hours, including at least two nights when their body clock demands sleep the most - from 1 a.m. -5 a.m.

• Requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute break during the first eight hours of a shift. 

The final rule retains the current 11-hour daily driving limit and 14-hour work day.

Trucking companies and passenger carriers that allow drivers to exceed limits by more than three hours could be fined $11,000 per offense, and the drivers could face civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense.

Further information, including “Hours of Service Logbook Examples,” is available on FMCSA’s website at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/HOS.