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What the Latest FMCSA Rule Changes Will Mean for Trucking

FMCSA rule changesDON JERRELL
HNI Associate Vice President

A busy week is happening with regard to FMCSA, Hours of Service, and DVIRs.

What does it mean to the trucking industry?

Changes to 34-Hour Restart

Let’s start with the 34-hour restart. The current 34-hour restart rules require:

  • 34 consecutive hours off
  • Two periods from 1-5 a.m.
  • Restricted to once every 168 hours

The restart rules changed Tuesday after President Obama signed the omnibus bill. Because the bill now is the law of the land, the restart rule reverted back to:

  • 34 consecutive hours off

This will remain in effect until the end of the FMCSA fiscal year 2015 or until FMCSA completes a study and presents the results to Congress — whichever takes longest.

According to the old restart rule, any time a driver has 34 consecutive hours off (any combination of off-duty and/or sleeper-berth time we're talking 34 hours with nothing on lines 3 or 4 of the driver log), the driver may reset his 60/70 hours.

Going back to the old restart rule will affect motor carriers (if they choose to use this exception), as they now will need logging tools and programs that recognize the 34 consecutive hours while having the 30-minute break still be applicable. Remember that prior to July 2013 trucking did not have the 30-minute-break requirement, and the break requirement still is in effect. In a nutshell, carriers can't just go back to the old programming.

How Changes to 34-Hour Restart Will Affect Trucking

So what does that mean as a motor carrier? Remember that the 34-hour restart is not mandatory; it is optional. There are carriers whose company policy is to not to use the 34-hour restart.

I see three challenges to trucking with the 34-hour restart update.

One challenge is getting electronic logging devices and log auditing devices for paper logs to revert back to the old 34-hour restart. Motor carriers will need to contact their logging vendor to discover what comes next.

The second challenge is communicating the 34-hour restart change to drivers, and the rumor mill already is running wild.

The third challenge belongs to FMCSA. The agency has to make sure that all officers at the roadside level know about the restart change and respond appropriately in their work.

DVIR Rule Update Raises Many Questions 

Now let’s discuss the DVIR process. Effective Dec 18 (that's today) carriers and drivers only will need to maintain a DVIR if defects or deficiencies are noted. The short story is that "clean" DVIRs no longer are required.

Does this mean you can’t keep your current process in place? FMCSA does have minimum DVIR paperwork requirements, but you can do more if you choose.

Some carriers say they are going to continue using a daily DVIR as a best practice. Some carriers with ELDs, which have a built-in DVIR process, still are requiring drivers to fill out the electronic version every day but are requiring a paper copy to note defects.

Another issue that's popping up with regard to DVIRs is critical violations.

In the past, an inspector would look at 30-days worth of DVIRs from a certain number of drivers, depending on the size of the company. Of the DVIRs that the inspector pulled, he wanted to see fewer than a pattern of 10 percent either missing or not having the proper information.

With the new DVIR rule, there won’t be 30 days of inspection reports. The DVIR retention rule is 90 days, and retention only is required if deficiencies are noted.

Like you, I've got a whole bunch of questions about what the DVIR rule really means:

  • Will auditors cross-reference roadside inspections to make sure that any with mechanical defects/deficiencies are noted on the DVIR? Each failure to list a defect is a violation. Will the critical violation percentage be determined by the number of inspections checked vs. the days the DVIR is not filled out or does not list all violations noted?
  • Will the pattern of 10 percent still be the determining factor? If so, one or two could be a pattern of 10 percent over a 90-day period.
  • Will inspectors look more in depth at maintenance records to see if repairs performed would have been defects/deficiencies that the driver should have been aware of and ask for proof (a DVIR) for these? Again, will it be the number checked vs. the number of DVIRs not filled out or not listing all repairs that the driver should have been aware of?

At this time, I have not found anyone who can answer these questions. Looks like these issues haven't been thought through, and I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

You can count on HNI to keep you up to date on the latest regs news, and please share your opinions in comments!

[ CLICK HERE FOR SLIDE DECKS ] FMCSA & Wisconsin State Patrol Update -Make sure your business is up to speed  with all current transportation regulatory and compliance issues-

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Topics: Transportation