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Spurred by truck crash data, feds issue new sleep rules for drivers

Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had said it might limit trucking hours of service to a 10-hour daily driving limit, the FMCSA instead let stand in a new rule the existing limit of 11 hours per shift. A fatigued driver is more likely to be involved in a truck accident, so driving at least 3 hours beyond a driver's shift is considered an egregious violation that triggers the maximum civil penalties under the new rule.

The rule applies to drivers of commercial motor vehicles and to commercial drivers carrying passengers in Ohio and elsewhere throughout the United States.

Other provisions of the new rule include retention of the existing work week limit of 70 hours for drivers and implementing a mandatory rest break of at least 30 minutes after eight hours of work.

The final rule also adds two restrictions to 34-hour restarts. Drivers who use the restart option to start a "new" workweek after taking an off-duty break of at least 34 hours may only use the option once a week. They also must include home terminal time at least twice a week between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. -- hours that experts believe are the most important for sleep, according to the driver's body clock.

In addition, the new rule changes the definition of on-duty time to exclude time resting in a parked CMV and up to two hours in the passenger seat right before or after eight consecutive hours in the sleeper-berth. The agency will continue to monitor and analyze data regarding HOS incidents. Compliance with the rule must be in place by July 1, 2013.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, "Hours-of-service (HOS) final rule" December 2011

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