FMCSA to Leave Hours-of-Service Rule Unchanged

Federal Register Notice to Set Effective Date of Jan. 19, 2009

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in a notice to be published in Wednesday’s Federal Register, said it was making no changes to its controversial hours-of-service rule.

FMCSA said it was adopting as final its interim final rule of Dec. 17, 2007, which maintained both the 11th hour of driving and the 34-hour restart provisions of the rule that had been overturned previously by a federal court for failing to provide proper notice for public comment and proper explanation of its reasoning.

The rule was posted for public inspection Tuesday before it was to be published on Wednesday.

The rule will become effective on Jan. 19, just one day before Barack Obama is to be sworn in as president, the agency said, and the final rule brings an end to the Bush administration’s more than five-year effort to update HOS rules.

Since first revising the rule in 2003, courts have either invalidated the entire rule or rejected parts of if twice, but FMCSA has continued to maintain the basic framework of the regulation, which includes 11 hours of driving within a window of 14 consecutive hours of work, followed by 10 hours off-duty.

FMCSA also limited drivers’ hours behind the wheel to 60 in seven days, or 70 in eight days, while allowing those clocks to be reset by taking 34 straight off-duty hours.

Previously, the rule had allowed for 10 hours of driving in a 15-hour period, but allowed drivers to log on and off duty at will, while requiring just eight hours of rest between shifts.

The 14-hour clock and the 10 hours of mandated rest reduced fatigue, but also created new constraints, and “to offset these constraints, while ensuring fatigue benefits are realized, the agency determined it could allow additional operation flexibility by permitting increased driving hours,” FMCSA said