HNI Associate Vice President
Earlier this month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration updated Hours of Service rules for off-duty time. The latest wave of Hours of Service updates went into effect July 1, and this revision tacks on to those new rules.
The update affects 49 CFR 395.2. According to the update, commercial motor vehicle drivers may record meal and other routine stops, including rest breaks of at least 30 minutes, as off-duty time if:
1.) They are relieved of all responsibility for the care of the vehicle, its accessories, and any cargo or passengers it may be carrying.
2.) For the whole duration of the stop, they are free to pursue activities of their own choosing.
The Old Off-Duty Rules
The old regulations about off-duty time required that drivers receive written instructions about the length of their off-duty time from their employers before they hit the road.
In the old off-duty regulations, a driver needed written instructions from his employer about the length of his break before he set off. There was, however, no rule about where to keep these written instructions. It was unclear whether the instructions needed to stay on the vehicle or at the employer's office.
The old rules also called for off-duty time to be long enough "to ensure that the accumulated fatigue resulting from operating a commercial motor vehicle will be significantly reduced." The regs offered no standard for how long this might be.
Why the Old Rules Had to Go
The call for written instructions implicitly placed a record-keeping burden on carriers and drivers. The unspecified off-duty time span created an unenforceable performance standard — how could the validity of a break be judged?
The FMCSA concluded in announcing the updates to the off-duty rules that the old regs discouraged drivers from taking breaks or from recording breaks in their logbooks.
What the New Off-Duty Rules Accomplish
The new off-duty rules, which are effective as of July 12, free drivers and motor carriers from any written instructions requirements. They also emphasize that drivers' off-duty time truly is free. Drivers may participate in their choice of activities, regardless of whether they have the means or opportunity to leave the facility where they're taking off-duty time.
For the full announcement of the revised off-duty rules, check out this article from the Federal Register.