Transportation & Logistics

Hours of Service (U.S. Department of Transportation)

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented a rule in 2005 amending its Hours of Service (HOS) regulations for drivers of commercial motor vehicles. The rule alters the current hours of service regulations, including creating driver classifications, limiting on-duty time and increasing driver rest periods. The rule reduces the number of hours a driver may work. Given the sweeping nature of the changes, the proposed rule not only significantly impacts carriers’ ability to achieve on-time delivery, but also affects every link in the frozen food distribution chain.

Furthermore, the rule may force carrier companies to hire new drivers and deploy additional trucks to compensate for drivers’ increased time off the road. The rule constitutes the first major change in the hours of service regulations since 1962.

The HOS rule divides motor carrier operations into five different categories according to their type of operation. Motor carriers are required to increase driver resting periods for sleep and personal necessities. Drivers are allowed to forfeit driving assignments if they feel they are not mentally alert enough to handle the assigned task. Any violation of the requirements by a motor carrier would subject the company to civil or potentially criminal penalties. The new rule’s most onerous burden is felt by short haul deliveries.

On July 24, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia remanded the Hours of Service rules of the FMCSA, ruling that the agency must provide better explanations of its justifications for adopting the 11-hour drive time and 34-hour restart provisions of the rule.

The rest of the rules remain in place limiting driving time to 11 hours and mandate a 10-hour rest time. The 34-hour restart gives drivers much greater flexibility to manage their time.

In response to FMCSA’s request, the Court of Appeals granted a 90-day stay of the mandate to eliminate the 11-hour daily driving limit and 34-hour restart provisions. The American Frozen Food Institute awaits the decision by the FMCSA on how they plan to proceed during this period. To date, the administration has only stated that they are evaluating their options in light of the court’s stay.

Hogan & Hartson Memo - September 6, 2007RE: Federal Court Again Rejects Increase to Hours-of-Service Rules for Truckers
House letter to USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood – February 22, 2011RE: Proposed changes to hours of service rules for commercial truck drivers
Senate letter to USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood – February 22, 2011RE: Proposed changes to hours of service rules for commercial truck drivers