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Congress fails to make decision about Hours of Service rule

California truck drivers and trucking companies will need to keep waiting for a decision on the FMCSA’s Hours of Service rule.

Commercial transportation in California is a highly regulated industry. Drivers, owner-operators and larger trucking companies must all understand and abide by a myriad of rules and laws. Their own safety and ability to maintain their business is often on the line in doing so. Many of these laws are handed down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

In 2013, the FMCSA enacted major changes to the number of hours drivers were allowed to work in a day and a week. The new law also included very specific requirements around what break periods should be included. One element of this law become highly controversial and has since been suspended.

The Senate was expected to have voted on the matter but did not do so. The Commercial Carrier Journal reports that it may now not be reviewed again until the 2017 Department of Transportation appropriations bill. It is possible that a different financial issue for that year's financial package may also include a review of the Hours of Service rule.

What is the Hours of Service rule?

Understanding that fatigue can be a problem facing many truck drivers, the FMCSA developed guidelines to address this issue. Some of the provisions included the following:

  • A truck driver can work a maximum of 14 hours in one day.
  • Only 11 of those 14 hours can be spent actually driving.
  • A rest period of 10 hours must precede the subsequent driving period.
  • In a work week, a rest period of 34 hours must take place.
  • The 34-hour rest period must include two different spans of time between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

It is this last part of the rule that received great backlash from within the industry. Many say that they literally cannot afford to take such breaks. In the transportation industry, time is money and this rule is costing them money.

The FMCSA is conducting a study which will be reviewed and may contribute to a final decision on whether or not this part of the rule is reinstated. For now, it has been put on hold per the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015.

Many had hoped that a final decision on the future of this part of the Hours of Service rule would have been made by now but that is clearly not to happen.

Drivers and transportation companies who encounter problems associated with fatigued drivers or any element of this rule should always contact an attorney for help.

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