In 2004 the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandated for the first time since 1939 a change in its Hours of Service (HOS) rules.
The new regulations, which aim to reduce fatigue-related accidents, enable drivers to drive 11 hours after a 10-hour break and state that drivers may not drive after 14 hours on duty. Breaks and delays can not extend time on duty. The 14 hours of work are consecutive.
However, a federal appeals court dismissed the current HOS rules and told the FMCSA to create new rules, which are slated to be in place Sept. 30, 2005. (The rules introduced in 2004 remain in effect until the new rules start.)
"We're going to be subjected to a different proposal by September 2005, so the ongoing HOS saga continues," says Bill Matheson, vice president and general manager of intermodal services for Schneider National Inc., Greenbay, Wis. "We went 60-plus years without a change to the HOS, and now we've had these recent proposals, one which has been implemented, and one that is forthcoming. This is one where we can clearly anticipate that the ultimate regulations we end with are going to be more restrictive than we have today."
According to Matheson, those arguing for a change in the current rules are not arguing to liberalize them, but that they may not be restrictive enough in terms of preventing fatigue or fighting fatigue.