FMCSA clarifies required driver breaks

Wednesday, Jul 24 2013 admin

Following closely behind the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s  (FMCSA) Hours of Service (HOS) regulations becoming effective July 1, a notice of regulatory guidance has just been released by the agency, clarifying what conditions must be met in order for a truck driver to record meal and other routine stops made during a work shift as off-duty time.

HOS complianceIn the new HOS regulations, drivers are required to take a 30-minute break every eight hours or less. Although the FMCSA has not received any requests for clarification of the conditions, the agency says it finds the guidance out of date and that it no longer provides practical assistance to those drivers trying to keep in compliance with HOS rules.

The FMCSA is actually revising its April 4, 1997 regulatory guidance because it includes language that is “overly restrictive and inconsistent with the hours-of-service regulations. The 1997 guidance has the effect of discouraging drivers from taking breaks during the work day, or documenting such breaks in their logbooks.”

The original guidance requires written instructions from the driver’s employer as to the duration of breaks during the work shift. This is inconsistent with the new regulations. The new guidance says records must be kept, but the carrier and the driver are not responsible for maintaining a copy of the employer’s instructions at its principal place of business or on the truck.

In addition, the earlier guidance includes an “unenforceable performance standard for assessing the validity of a break that will be recorded as off-duty,” since the guidance says a break must be long enough to reduce any accumulated fatigue from driving the truck.

Now, the new guidance says:

Question 2:  What conditions must be met for a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver to record meals and other routing stops made during a work shift as off-duty time?

Guidance:  Drivers may record meal and other routine stops, including a rest break of at least 30 minutes intended to satisfy 49 CFT 395.3(a)(3)(ii), as off-duty time provided:

  1. The driver is relieved of all duty and responsibility for the care and custody of the vehicle, its accessories, and any cargo or passengers it may be carrying.
  2. During the stop, and for the duration of the stop, the driver must be at liberty to pursue activities of hi/her own choosing.”

The FMCSA stresses that the motor carrier does not have to provide formal guidance to drivers with regard to the specific times and locations where rest breaks may be taken. It also explains that the driver does not have to be away from the location of his truck to be considered not working and engaged in activities of his choosing.

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