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DOT introduces new rule for truck-driver hours

U.S. Department of Transportation officials this week released details of a plan to educate truck drivers about and to enforce a new hours-of-service rule. Starting Jan. 4, when the rule is implemented, state and federal officials expect to spend the first 60 days waging an aggressive education campaign and enforcing egregious violations.

The education and enforcement plans have been designed to ensure long-term compliance and understanding of the safety rule. The new hours-of-service rule represents the first major rewrite of the hours-of-service regulations in more than 60 years. It synchronizes the commercial drivers’ work and rest schedule better with the body’s circadian rhythm to reduce fatigue and save lives.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will ask states to write warnings instead of citations for all but flagrant violations. State officials are also being encouraged to use every stop in the first 60 days as an opportunity to educate drivers about the new rules. In addition, federal inspectors will coordinate education and enforcement efforts from regional offices across the country.

“The new safety rule gives us the means to save hundreds of lives, protect billions in commerce and safeguard our roads and highways for years to come,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta. “We must do whatever we can to make certain everyone is aware and in full compliance as soon as possible.”

It is estimated that the new hours-of-service rule will save 75 lives, prevent 1,326 fatigue-related injuries, and prevent 6,900 property damage-only crashes annually, resulting in a cost savings to the American economy of $628 million a year.

“This new rule combines the best scientific research and real-world analysis to prevent driver fatigue,” said FMCSA Administrator Annette M. Sandberg. “The measure of a rule is how well it works. That is why we are taking every step to make sure drivers know about the changes and follow them.”

The new regulations provide commercial truck drivers a work and rest schedule that is more in line with a person’s circadian rhythm and thus is expected to significantly reduce driver fatigue. For example, the new rules allow long haul drivers to drive 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty.

Similarly, truckers may not drive after being on duty for 60 hours in a seven-consecutive-day period or 70 hours in an eight-consecutive-day period. This on-duty cycle may be restarted only after a driver takes a “weekend” off, that is, at least 34 consecutive hours off duty.

The current rules allow 10 hours of driving within a 15-hour, on-duty period and requires only eight hours of off-duty time.

Detailed information about the rule is at, and FMCSA has staffed a toll-free telephone line around the clock to answer drivers’ questions.