Memo addresses hours-of-service issue

12/03/2003 12:00:00 AM
Terry Scruton

(Dec. 3) WASHINGTON, D.C. — With a Jan. 4 implementation deadline rapidly approaching, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued its enforcement policy in an attempt to clarify several key issues of the hours-of-service regulations.

John Hill, assistant administrator and chief safety officer for the administration, said in a memo to field and division administrators that there are still some issues in the rule in need of resolution.

What’s more, Hill wrote, the administration is planning a review of some of these areas of concern and will petition for changes to the rule as needed.

Most of the issues concern drivers who operate in sleeper-berth operations. That is, drivers who drive trucks with sleeper berths, either alone or as part of a team.

The first issue involves calculating the 14-hour rule with regard to qualified sleeper-berth periods. The American Trucking Associations, Alexandria, Va., has raised questions about how this rule is applied.

Hill wrote that the 14-hour on-duty period required by the rule begins at the end of one qualified sleeper-berth period and ends at the start of the next one. The ATA wants drivers to be able to extend the 14-hour on-duty period after sleeper-berth periods of two hours or more. According to the memo, the on-duty period will continue to be calculated according to the rule.

Another issue at hand involves the 34-hour restart provision. Under the new rule, a driver cannot work more than 60 hours in six days or 70 hours in seven days. However, the restart provision allows a driver to restart that period by taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty.

Hill said it is important to note that this rule applies only if, at the beginning of that 34-hour off-duty period, the driver has not accumulated more than 60 or 70 hours in six or seven days.

The last issue involves the amount of out-of-service time drivers are required to take if they violate certain regulations.

If a driver violates the 60- to 70-hour rule, that driver must be placed out of service for the minimum amount of time required to bring the driver back into compliance with the rule. In other words, Hill wrote, the driver must be placed out of service until the beginning of the next 24-hour period when the driver would begin the day under the 60- to 70-hour limit.

When that 24-hour period begins is determined by how many hours the driver has gone over the limit. In addition, a driver may not use the 34-hour restart provision in this situation.


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