After 18 months of lost productivity and groaning from the trucking industry about any potential safety benefits of the rule, the FMCSA has suspended enforcement of 49 CFR 395.3 (c) and (d) effective 12:01am December 16, 2014.
As of July 2013 there were many changes to the Hours of Service regulations but one of the most contentious was the 34 hour restart provisions. A driver can be on duty only 60 hours in every 7 days and only 70 hours in every 8 days. This was particularly onerous because once your 7 or 8 day period started you were limited on when you could “reset” it. Under the new rule you could only reset it once per week and only after being on duty for 168 consecutive hours.
The other issue was that the 34 hour restart must include two periods from 1am-5am. This rule was an issue for many truckers who liked to get an early start say on Sunday night to avoid the early Monday morning traffic. They couldn’t start their shift till 5am Monday if they had finished late Friday night, something that’s typical for truckers to do.
Trucking companies need flexibility, and so do the drivers. Particularly in long-haul shipments where the driver is sent 3-4 days out for a delivery and then must return with another shipment. If the re-set provision is flexible, the carrier would have the option to deliver and then put the driver off duty and coordinate a shipment home. However, under the July 2013 regulations, this would not be possible. The driver would be on the clock until either the next reset opportunity or the 7 or 8 day period expired. In many cases this tied the hands of load planners. Many carriers estimated that the average impact of this rule was a 3-4% impact on productivity. This is huge in the trucking industry when 3-4% is a typical operating ratio!
Now, this particular provision is not going to be enforced while the FMCSA is studying its impact. The driver can reset their 7 or 8 day periods any time they like.
This should provide some ease on long-haul capacity. With greater options about when the driver can reset their work week, they can better coordinate down time with periods when they are not driving, i.e.: waiting for a load to be ready, coordinating a backhaul shipment, maintenance and repairs, etc.
Theoretically, the industry should get some of that 3-4% productivity gains back. Time will tell.