FMCSA Faces Increased Criticism for “34-hour Restart” Rule

Ever since the FMCSA released new Hours of Service Regulations on July 1, 2013, they have received a good deal of criticism from the trucking industry and others over the so-called “34-hour Restart” rule.

Briefly put, previously drivers were allowed to work right up to their 60- or 70-hour limit, take a 34-hour restart, and return to driving. This way, drivers were able to accrue up to 82 working hours in a week. The new rule limits the maximum number of hours a driver can drive to 70 hours per week by limiting how drivers can take that “restart.” Now, the restart break must include two consecutive periods of rest from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., and a driver cannot start another restart break until at least 168 hours have passed since the start of their last restart break.

Industry representatives claim the new restart rule will hurt small businesses and drivers, and that the perceived safety enhancements are vastly overstated or nonexistent.

Two months ago, the FMCSA released a field report that they claim validated the rule. The report said there was “significant difference” in lapses of attention, sleepiness, lane deviation and other measures for drivers who adhered to the 34-hour restart rule and those that did not.

That same day, however, a House representative called the report, “Worthless.” And since then, criticism from industry representatives, lawmakers and even other industries has increased.

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) were especially aggressive in questioning FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro during a House Subcommittee on Highway and Transit hearing. Hanna, who is author of a bill that would stay the 34-hour restart rule until the Government Accountability Office (GAO) can review it, called the rule “half-baked,” “dangerous,” and “worthless.”

The FMCSA got another earful from industry, safety, labor and enforcement advocates at a Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee  (MCSAC) meeting in Alexandria, VA on Feb. 10-11. The American Trucking Association, labor representatives and the enforcement community all railed against the bill.

Even the Snack Food Association (SFA) has weighed in against the rule. In support of a companion bill to Hanna’s in the Senate, authored by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), the SFA said in an open letter that rescinding the rule “would provide much needed relief… for the many thousands of manufacturers, distributors, retailers and others that rely on both long and short haul trucking in support of their core business activities.”

SFA President and CEO Thomas Dempsey noted that there is less workforce available during key delivery periods due to the 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. limitation.

“SFA member-companies often schedule early morning deliveries as a means of avoiding traffic congestion and accident exposure and to ensure that product is delivered in advance of normal business hours.” In fact, he said, the 1 a.m. to 5:00 am time window “is often the ideal time to make truck deliveries because traffic, congestion and accident exposure is reduced.”

Despite the criticism, Ferro and the FMCSA remain resolutely in support of the rule.

To ensure your drivers are in compliance with the rule, contact us today for log book auditing, or view a complete list of our DOT compliance services.

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