If you run a trucking company, you’ll be subject to many rules and regulations. The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration is the agency of the Department of Transportation that sets these rules.
During your first year of operations, an auditor from the FMCSA will visit your company and ensure that you’re adhering to those rules. If you don’t follow these rules to a T, you may fail your audit. Although you’ll have an opportunity to appeal, a failed audit can end your business.
A driver’s hours of service are strictly regulated. You must account for every single minute that a driver is on duty. You’ll record their hours with an Electronic Logging Device. The device attaches directly to the truck’s engine and records the time a driver spends operating the vehicle.
There are four basic work activities a driver does during a typical haul. You must ensure your records reflect exactly how long your drivers did each.
- Non-driving tasks (inspections, training, loading, gassing up)
- Resting in their sleeper berth
A Strictly Enforced Rule
If you don’t record every hour a driver is on duty, or if you overwork them, you may face strict fines from the FMCSA. Remember that you must never let a driver operate their vehicle for more than 11 consecutive hours. They shouldn’t be on duty for over 14 hours. Drivers should never work when they’re tired.
According to Simplex Group, The 34-hour reset rule is one of the most strictly enforced standards about a driver’s service hours. A driver can only be on the road for 60 hours in 7 days and 70 hours in 8 days. In some cases, adhering to this rule may be difficult. You may need your driver to work 60 hours one week and 70 hours the next.
Fortunately, you’re allowed to reset your driver’s drive time. The driver may simply take off work for 34 hours or combine time spent in their sleeping berth with their time off. When that 34-hour period is reset, they can drive again.
The 34-hour reset rule has not been around for a long time. It was established in 2013. It required drivers to take a 34-hour rest after working 70 hours in a 7-day period. When the rule was first enacted, it required two overnight breaks in those 34 hours. Overnight was considered from 1:00 am to 5:00 am. Trucking companies were allowed to reset every 138 hours, about five and three-quarters of a day.
The rule is the subject of some controversy. Some drivers feel that they would easily be able to drive again after a 24-hour period. However, the FMCSA did a study in which they discovered that drivers experienced the most fatigue from 12:00 pm to 5:00 am. They also found that drivers needed at least 34 hours to recharge.
Congress ordered the FMCSA to do a study to see if the 34-hour rule was working. The rules were temporarily suspended to see if they made any difference. The 34-hour rule was not in effect from the end of 2014 until the end of September 2015.
The results of the study are not yet public. Before a study such as this can be released, it must go through a peer review system. The FMCSA has not announced a date to release the study.
Congress temporarily suspended a portion of the 34-hour rule. Nowadays, drivers still have to take a 34-hour break. However, it doesn’t have to include two overnight periods. You’re no longer limited to the number of reset periods you have in a week.
As you can imagine, this rule is not popular with truck drivers, trucking companies, or manufacturers. The more hours your drivers work, the more money you’d make, and the faster products get where they’re going.
The American Trucking Association argues that the ruling by congress to eliminate the two overnight periods and to let drivers take more than one reset a week is permanent. The FMCSA argues that it’s temporary until the results of their research are public.
For now, you can follow the modified version of the 34-hour rule. Although it’s advisable to give two overnight breaks and only use the 34-hour rule once a week, you won’t get in trouble if you do not.
There are lobbyists in Washington working hard to overturn this rule altogether. In 2015, a rider was attached to a congressional spending bill that would have ended this rule. The rider was considered confusing and poorly written, so it never went through.
The best way to stay compliant is to use a professional compliance company. There aren’t enough hours to run a trucking company and take care of your compliance. You have to worry about hiring drivers, acquiring clients, and keeping those clients happy.
You should select a compliance company with many years of experience in the trucking industry. A compliance company should be up to date with the latest technology. They should offer a state-of-the-art Electronic Logging Device that will store your electronic records for you.
The more services a compliance company has to offer, the better. If you can find a company that takes care of compliance, insurance, driver drug testing, and route planning, it’ll save you hours, plenty of money, and a lot of worries. The 34-hour rule will help keep your drivers safe and well-rested. Complying with the rule will keep you from being fined by the FMCSA. If you hire a great compliance company, following the rules will be easy and stress-free.
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