The government-wide spending bill enacted last week includes a provision championed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) relating to the federal hours of service rule for interstate commercial motor vehicle drivers, as implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The new law suspends a portion of the rule, introduced in 2013, requiring drivers to rest on two consecutive days between the hours of 1:00 and 5:00 am, in order to qualify for the 34-hour “restart” to their driving week. Also suspended is a related requirement that the restart only be utilized once every seven days. As a result, drivers can once again restart their work week by resting for 34 consecutive hours, regardless of the time of day, and perhaps begin a new restart less than seven days after the previous one. The law also directs the U.S. Department of Transportation to conduct a study of the “operational, safety, health and fatigue aspects” of both sets of restart requirements. It is important to note, however, this suspension of restart provisions only lasts until September 30, 2015—when the funding bill expires.
In response to inquiries on this change from various ARTBA members and chapters, it is important to note that the hours of service rule continues to include a limited construction exemption, through which qualifying industry drivers can restart their work week after only 24 hours of consecutive rest. The new hours of service practices do not alter this provision, which is directly relevant to industry drivers crossing state lines and making short-haul trips to and from active construction sites. As such, the new restart requirements will certainly affect other commercial motor vehicle operators, but the construction industry impact will be limited.
ARTBA advises chapters and members to consult with your state’s motor carrier enforcement agency about this recent change. While the FMCSA hours of service rule applies to interstate drivers, states sometimes adopt their own rules regarding intrastate drivers.
ARTBA continues to seek a full exemption for short-haul transportation construction industry drivers from the interstate hours of service rule. As we work with Congress and FMCSA on this objective, we will continue to keep you advised. Contact ARTBA’s Nick Goldstein for more information.