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Feds Suspend Truck Drivers’ Rest Break Requirements

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced that it would suspend enforcement of some of its rules regarding rest breaks for long-haul freight drivers. The FMCSA stated that it would suspend its prohibition against drivers going more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days, or 70 hours in eight consecutive days. The agency also announced that its would suspend its enforcement of a rule calling for drivers to take at least two rest periods per week between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Rest Period Requirements Suspended

Starting in July 2013, federal laws required truckers to limit their driving hours and take rest periods during the early morning hours. The previous rest period rules stated that a driver may restart a new period of consecutive days after taking at least 34 hours off the roads. The rules’ suspensions stemmed from the passage of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 and came into effect on December 16, 2014.

Other Driving Time Limits

The FMCSA also has other rules limiting a truck driver’s time on the road. Freight drivers may drive a maximum of 11 hours a day after ten consecutive hours away from the road. After coming back on duty, freight drivers may not drive more than 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty. If the driver’s truck has a sleeper berth,the driver must rest for at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, in addition to a separate break of two consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and/or off duty.

Study Examines Impact of Rest Breaks

A study by researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute will examine how the suspension of the restart rules will affect truck drivers. The Commercial Motor Vehicle Driver Restart Study will compile data on truck driver fatigue levels and safety performance. The study will examine the performance of drivers who take two nighttime rest breaks during the 34-hour downtime, then compare that data with statistics gathered from drivers who take less than the required two rest breaks during the same period.

Drivers Take Part In Fatigue Study

The study’s authors reported that they would gather data from a pool of 250 drivers. The pool would consist of drivers from long-haul, short-haul and regional trucking companies. Vehicles in the study would range from tractor-trailers to tanker trucks to dry-van trailers. The researchers would gather data for five months and compare the fatigue levels and safety reports from both sets of drivers. Richard Hanowski, director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, told reporters that the study represented “an opportunity to perform ground-breaking research that will have impact for decades to come.”

Sources: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (1), (2), Occupational Health and Safety

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