TUCKER, Ga. – A revised hours of service (HOS) rule for commercial vehicle drivers was released on Dec. 22 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The rule is modified somewhat from the original Dec. 29, 2010, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that the US poultry and egg industry later opposed in a Feb. 28, 2011, comment letter, according to the US Poultry & Egg Association (USPOULTRY).

The final rule was published Dec. 27 in the Federal Register and it revises the 34-hour restart provision. A driver must have 34 consecutive hours off-duty after driving 60 hours in seven days or 70 hours in an eight-day maximum work week.

Starting July 1, 2013, the 34-hour restart period must include two 1 a.m. – 5 a.m. rest periods satisfying FMCSA's feeling that nighttime rest is more restorative than daytime rest. USPOULTRY said the final rule is better than the original proposal, which required two 12:00 a.m. – 6 a.m. periods but may require as little as 34 hours or as much as 48 hours off duty depending upon when the driving week ends.

Truck-related fatalities have dropped 33 percent to the lowest levels ever recorded since the current hours of service regulations were introduced in 2003, said Paul Pressley, USPOULTRY's executive vice president of industry programs.

“The poultry industry remains committed to safely operating its truck fleet and has organized its schedules and routes around the existing regulations,” he added. “The new rule will restrict the on-duty hours available for many drivers and increase the number of trucks and drivers necessary to deliver our products without any demonstrated improvement in highway safety."

The new rule specifies that effective Feb. 27, 2012, driving or allowing a driver to drive three or more hours beyond the driving-time limit may be considered an egregious violation and subject to maximum civil penalties of $11,000 per offense for the trucking company and up to $2,750 for each offense for the driver.