Court of Appeals affirms Hours of Service Rules

D.C. Circuit

The D.C. Circuit Courthouse

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (the D.C. Circuit) in a decision dated August 2, 2013 has affirmed the hours-of-service final rule that was published on December 27, 2011, with the exception of the 30-minute break requirement for “short haul” drivers. “Short haul” drivers make trips within a 150 mile radius of their home base.

Said Judge Janice Rogers Brown for the court: “For our purposes, the 2011 Final Rule resembles the earlier rules in all essential respects save for the addition of several new, safety-enhancing provisions:

• 30-Minute Off-Duty Break. The 2011 Final Rule bars
truckers from driving past 8 hours unless they have had
an off-duty break of at least 30 minutes.

• Once-Per-Week Restriction. To prevent drivers from
abusing the 34-hour restart, the 2011 Final Rule allows
truckers to invoke the provision only once every 168
hours (or 7 days).

• Two-Night Requirement. To ensure that drivers using
the 34-hour restart have an opportunity to get two nights
of rest, the 2011 Final Rule also mandates that the restart
include two blocks of time from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.”

“With one small exception, our decision today brings
to an end much of the permanent warfare surrounding the
HOS rules. Though FMCSA won the day not on the strengths
of its rulemaking prowess, but through an artless war of
attrition, the controversies of this round are ended.”

While the controversies may be ended, confusion over the ruling has begun. For example, the DOT has been asked to clarify if the rule concerning short-haul drivers includes CDL drivers as well.

A simple rule of thumb to follow in lieu of further DOT clarification may be to require any driver who must use a logbook to log a 30-minute break as required.

New, free Hours of Service Logbook Examples for Drivers

Logbook Examples

A free publication, dated January 2013, called,  “Hours of Service Logbook Examples” is available in Adobe .PDF format from the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (USDOT, FMCSA). Most of these examples only apply to property-carrying vehicles, not “livery” or carriers of passengers.  Some examples for passenger-carrying vehicles are found at the end of this publication.

The purpose of this guide is essentially limited in scope to upcoming changes (barring any legal adjudication between now and the effective date of compliance). If you are not sure how to “run a logbook,” then please see our Hours of Service guide for drivers. Hours of Service is the number one violation area in DOT rule enforcement, with fines running up to $200 per day.

Highlights of the Publication

A new restart provision. After midnight June 30, 2013, a driver may not take an off-duty period to restart the calculation of 60 hours in 7 consecutive days or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days until 168 or more consecutive hours have passed since the beginning of the last such off-duty period. The effective compliance date for the new restart provision is July 1, 2013.

The 16-Hour Driving Window is available once “weekly” to certain drivers (generally what is called “local delivery), and is not available to all drivers (refer to 49 CFR, Section 395.1(o)).

Co-driver in passenger seat. There is an example showing the change in the definition of on-duty time that allows a driver in an in-motion or moving property-carrying commercial motor vehicle (CMV) to spend up to 2 hours in the passenger seat immediately before or after 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper-berth (S/B), and properly classify this as off-duty time.

Mandatory 30 Minute Rest Break. This new rule prohibits driving if 8 hours or more have passed since the end of the driver’s last off-duty period of at least 30 minutes. The compliance date for the 30-minute rest break provision is July 1, 2013.

“Waiting Time” at Well Site. This rule covers drivers servicing wells in the oil-patch. Waiting time at a well sit is off duty and extends the “14-hour” limit. The ‘waiting time’ must be shown on the paper log or electronic equivalent as off duty and needs to be documented or identified by annotations in the remarks section of the log as “Waiting time at well site,” or a separate line added to the log grid.  The effective date for the revisions to the oilfield exemption in Section 395.1(d)(2) was February 27, 2012.

Overall Summary

This is more of an “advanced” level publication and, in my opinion, is not a publication for someone who is a beginner in learning the rules or who is not already “fluent” in the art of logging. Logging is a skill that is best learned by practice. Barring the results of any pending litigation, the publication is a good introduction and reference to recent or upcoming changes in Hours of Service rules.