In the first 12 calendar months of enforcing the new federal hours-of-service (HOS) rules, safety inspectors caught more drivers violating the "30-minute rule" than any other tenet of the policy. The 30-minute rule prohibits commercial truck drivers from driving for more than eight hours without taking a 30-minute off-duty break.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there have been 72,418 violations of the 30-minute rule in the current fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, 2013, and ends on Sept. 30. The fiscal period covers nine of the 12 months of enforcement since the rule took effect last July 1.
By contrast, there were 31,426 violations for driving beyond a 14-hour duty period and 16,875 violations for driving beyond 11 consecutive hours, according to FMCSA data. FMCSA is a Department of Transportation subagency that oversees commercial truck and bus safety.
Of the 40 types of driver violations tracked by FMCSA, the 30-minute rule violation has been the fourth most frequently violated so far this fiscal year, according to agency data. Violating state vehicle registration or license plate laws was at the top of the list with more than 106,000 violations. That was followed by logbook violations at more than 103,000, and operating a vehicle in violation of state and local laws at more than 98,000.
Thomas E. Bray, an hours-of-service expert at J.J. Keller & Associates Inc., a Neenah, Wis.-based consultancy that has been working with carriers to prepare for the changes, said that because 30-minute rule is a new policy, drivers may have been unaware of it or unsure of how to work with it. The policies governing a 14-hour workday and 11-hour consecutive drive times are already in place, so drivers are familiar with how to work within those guidelines, Bray said.
Bray said the number of violations of the 30-minute rule should decline in subsequent years as driver familiarity with the language improves.
The most controversial components of the hours-of-service rules call for drivers to reset their weekly driving clocks by resting for 34 consecutive hours and by taking off between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. during that span. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) had offered an amendment to the joint Department of Transportation and Department of Housing and Urban Development fiscal 2015 budgets that would have suspended the restart provision for one year pending further research into the issue. The bill with the amendment had passed the Senate Appropriations Committee. However, on June 20 the bill was pulled from the Senate floor amid arguments from some senators that the restart language is important to safeguard the travelling public.
The new rules have been opposed by a wide range of interests who argued that it would not have a dramatically positive impact on highway safety and could actually increase road risk it puts truck drivers on highways after 5 a.m., the same time as many rush-hour commuters.
Shippers and carriers have said the rules, which also reduce a driver's seven-day workweek to 70 hours from 82, will reduce fleet productivity and force severe disruptions on well-calibrated supply chains.
Earlier this year, FMCSA released a study showing the new rules will save an estimated 19 lives each year by preventing 1,400 crashes.