AB-5 Signed Into Law: What That Means for Truck Drivers

This past September, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law new legislation focused on making things a little more difficult for independent owner-operators, such as truck drivers and gig economy workers, possibly even putting them out of business.

The AB-5 legislation originally passed the California State Assembly back in May and was passed by the state Senate on September 10. What it does is move last year’s Dynamex California Supreme Court decision into law, which established an ABC test to determine the status of an independent contractor that could essentially eliminate the owner-operator model in California, and disrupting everything from investing in commercial truck insurance, such as general liability insurance, and the sharing economy.

Taking effect starting January 1, 2020, those in the trucking industry could find themselves in the crosshairs. So, what does this all mean for trucking professionals?

Trucking Companies and Professionals in AB-5

While there is little proof that trucking professionals and companies have abused the independent contractor model in the state, AB-5 is still in place to essentially paint with a broad brush in banning the use of independent contractors rather than deal with individual abuses.

The state’s trucking industry has been trying to work with legislators to find exceptions for legitimate independent contractors who follow the rules. Many workers are exempted from this ruling, like doctors, dentists, and engineers, but not trucking or gig economy workers, like those working for Lyft or Uber.

The new bill does not necessarily distinguish between a driver who’s an independent contractor under a truck lease-program and someone who owns their own truck. Those opposed to the ruling argue that this essentially destroys the independent contractor model for trucking.

In California, there are more than small 136,000 trucking companies that are locally owned with small fleets and independent drivers who take care of their operations. This means that motor carriers and owner-operators are left in the lurch trying to figure out a strategy for what they can do now.

California is currently experiencing a truck driver shortage, much like the rest of the nation, but maybe even more so, since the state is highly dependent on the flow of goods coming from Mexico or Arizona. The new measure may aggravate the issue at hand by removing thousands of drivers from the road because of de-classifying them.

Currently, there are lawsuits that have been filed to fight the issue and look for ways to exempt these companies and their drivers from the classification. Additionally, companies like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, all dependent upon independent contractors, have invested in a collective of $90 million to bring this issue to the ballot during the next voting season.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates, and coverage changes.

FMCSA Proposes New Rule to Increase Service Hours Flexibility for Drivers

In August, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a long-awaited proposal for changes to hours of service rules that would help add more flexibility for truck drivers on the road.

These hours of service rules, first adopted in 1937, specify the permitted operating hours of commercial truck drivers and have gone through multiple revisions. The newer mandate requiring electronic logging of hours that took effect in December 2017 featured some of the shortcomings in how these rules are applied in the everyday driving habits of truckers.

The FMCSA, through an advanced notice period of proposed rulemaking, asked for comments from the public on how to help add flexibility in realistic ways to the industry. Based on those responses, the regulatory body came up with a new rule to increase service hours flexibility.

What to Know

The FMCSA came up with five components to the rule change, helping to keep safety in the spotlight. Trucking companies can face claims from truck drivers if they feel overworked, leading to accidents or injuries on the road. Commercial trucking companies can take out commercial truck insurance plans to make sure they are covered in the event of a professional claim, especially with something like workers’ compensation insurance.

And while protecting against claims is a must for trucking companies, it’s good to know what changes were made to the hours of service. They include the following:

  • Changing the 30-minute break requirement to require a break after eight hours of uninterrupted driving time, not on-duty time, and allowing the break to be satisfied by a driver using on-duty/not driving status, rather than off-duty status. If a driver has to take a break to add fuel to their truck or use the restroom or grab a quick bite, that can count as their required break.
  • Allow drivers to split their required 10 hours off-duty into two period. This can include one period of at least seven consecutive hours in the sleeper berth and the other period of not less than two consecutive hours, either off-duty or in the sleeper berth. This would allow for a 7/3 or 8/2 split. Neither period would count against the driver’s 14-hour driving window.
  • Allow one off-duty break of at least 30 minutes, but no more than three hours, that would pause a truck driver’s 14-hour on-duty window, provided the driver takes 10 consecutive hours off-duty at the end of the work shift. This would alot drivers to take up to a three-hour break to bypass rush hour, without affecting their on-duty time.
  • Modify the adverse driving conditions exception, adding two hours to the maximum window during which driving is allowed. The current rule allows for that extra time but it still has to be within the maximum 14-hour workday. The proposal would allow that workday to be lengthened to as much as 16 hours in instances where things like extreme weather or major traffic congestion become a factor.
  • Change the short-haul exception available to certain commercial drivers by extending the drivers’ maximum on-duty period from 12 to 14 hours and lengthening the distance limit within which the driver may operate the wheel from 100 air miles to 150 air miles.

The FMCSA expressed, through a press release, that the proposed rule wouldn’t increase driving time and instead would continue to prevent trucking professionals from driving more than eight consecutive hours without at least a 30-minute change in duty status. What’s more, the FMCSA says the proposed changes are estimated to provide $274 million in savings for the economy in the United States as well as American consumers.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates, and coverage changes.

Compliance Requirements for California Vehicles

In recent years, California has seen a number of regulations change or be created in order to cut down on emissions, greenhouse gases, and traffic while boosting alternative fuels, for example. One industry affected by new rules and regulations is the freight industry, or trucking, which plays a huge role in the state’s economy.

Last year, California saw record-setting levels of freight-hauling demand and driver pay as trucking levels reached a 20-year high. From produce to animals to tech commodities, California sees high numbers of trucking freight hit the roads. But State regulations of trucking and bus operations are finding numerous ways to hit the trucking industry.

Here is a better look at how compliance requirements in California are affecting the freight and transportation industries.

Vehicles Affected by Regulations

The Truck and Bus regulation affects individuals, private companies, and Federal agencies that own and operate diesel vehicles that weigh in at more than 14,000 pounds. But it also extends out to publicly and privately owned school buses, even though their compliance requirements differ. Local and state government vehicles aren’t affected by the regulations because they are already subject to other regulations.

Heavier Trucks and Buses

Heavier trucks and buses on the road that weigh more than 26,000 pounds must comply with a set schedule by engine model year or owners can report to show compliance with more options. Engines made any time after 1996 should have an OEM or retrofit PM filter installed as vehicles made prior to 1996 should have already been replaced by January 1, 2015. The goal from the state is to have all trucks and buses driving with 2010 model engines by January 1, 2023.

PM Filters

Some trucking companies and individual owners have sought more information on PM filter installations. These are the filters that reduce particulate matter and cut down on smog and pollution. Owners who did not install PM filters before January 1, 2014, and do not use flexibility options are required to replace existing trucks according to their model year schedule.

Getting hit with fines can be costly and sideline a trucking company’s business altogether; especially smaller companies that can’t afford to have their trucks sit while they work on getting compliant, which is also a costly endeavor. While not all claims can be held off, there are options to keep fines low and representation costs minimized. Through comprehensive truck insurance, trucking companies can limit their exposures and make sure the increased values of their equipment are properly protected.

What About Lighter Trucks?

Lighter trucks and buses that fit right in the middle of that 14,000-26,000-pound window already had engine replacement requirements set on January 1, 2015. Lighter vehicles with engines that are more than 20 years old need to be replaced with newer trucks or engines, and beginning January 1 of next year, all remaining vehicles who have yet to take this step need to have 2010 engines or newer.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates, and coverage changes.

AB 5 Passes California State Senate Hearing – What Does this Mean?

In California, the trucking industry is in the middle of a legislative upheaval over certain exemptions and tests for truck drivers on the state’s highways. Legislation that could disrupt the owner-operator trucking model in California is headed to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk to be signed.

Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) passed the state senate’s Standing Committee on Labor, Public Employment and Retirement by a 4 to 1 vote, opening to door to codify the ABC test for employee status prescribed in the 2018 Dynamex decision.

Supporting the legislation would help to seek to protect workers from employers that attempt to classify them as independent contractors instead of employees. It could also affect the price of ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, which will likely create higher prices for consumers.

What the Bill Is

Under the bill, many workers who are currently under the label of independent contractor would be considered employees. This would make them subject to the state labor laws in California. What’s more, employers would have to pay payroll taxes, provide benefits, overtime, minimum wage, workers’ compensation and, in many cases, also provide the commercial truck insurance.

Opposing the Bill

The bill in its current form would hurt the owner-operators who want to stay independent. The test, which designates employee status in the legislation, provides no leeway for independent truck drivers who work with other trucking companies; including truck brokers. Trucking associations, such as the Western States Trucking Association (WSTA) have come out against the bill. They warn that the liabilities that come from it would hit employers as a result of reclassification and would ultimately lead to many, if not most, refusing to work with owner-operators.

What Happens Now?

Now, the future of the legislation is still a bit hazy. AB5 needs to be taken up by the state Senate’s Appropriations Committee, which won’t happen until later this month after the legislature’s recess is up. From there, the bill would go to the Senate floor for a major vote. If successful there, it then passes on to the Assembly chamber for a concurrence vote.

In the end, if it hurdles over those steps, the bill would then head to Gov. Newsom for signing, although Newsom does have the power to veto. Another hitch is that the bill needs to be passed by September 13 when it would die if not written into law.

Make sure to check back for future updates on this legislation.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Servicesis a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates, and coverage changes.

FMCSA Update: California Yields to Preemption Determination

Following the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s determination in December of last year that federal law preempts California’s meal and rest break rules, many trucking companies are trying to determine how this is going to affect them with the California courts.  Los Angeles Superior Court became the first state court in California to apply the determination to armored truck driver claims for meal and break rules in the state; decided in favor of the Federal Rules.

Let’s take a closer look at what the preemption determination is and how trucking companies should proceed.

How to Proceed with This Ruling

 The recent court orders are good news for trucking businesses with drivers subject to federal rules, but these companies should still be concerned about the state objectives on enforcing the meal and break rules. Trucking companies can still be hit with claims from drivers, and their opportunistic attorneys when it comes to rest and meal breaks. Having a knowledgeable commercial truck insurance broker to consult with is an added avenue of defense.

Preemption Determination

The FMCSA decided in December of 2018 that federal transportation law preempts (takes priority over) California’s meal and rest break rules when a driver is subject to federal hours-of-service requirements. Essentially, what this means is that California’s laws were looked at as incompatible with the federal regulations, which is causing a burden on interstate commerce.

Applying the FMCSA’s Rules

In May of this year, a district court in California ruled on the issue and dismissed a claim made for truck drivers meal and rest breaks. The court made it known that it doesn’t have the authority to enforce the regulations around meal and rest breaks. Following that ruling, the Los Angeles Superior Court, as mentioned above, made its decision surrounding armored truck drivers’ meal and rest break claims, determining that federal rules governing the hours of service for both long- and short-haul drivers preempt (take priority over) the state rules in California.

The court ruled that it was “obligated to recognize the supremacy of federal law under the United States Constitution and the oath of judicial office”. The court also determined that it has no choice “but to respect and enforce the FMCSA Administration’s preemption determination without trying to second-guess its legal or policy correctness.”

This issue will be continually evolving. Keep an eye out for future blogs with updates on this ruling.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates, and coverage changes.

Trucking News: What’s the Status on Owner-Operators in California?

Currently there are competing bills in California state legislature that are aiming to address an April 2018 ruling by the state’s Supreme Court that has threatened the traditional owner-operator model within the state. The bills are pointing to trucking groups wanting to upend years of law used to decide if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.

Independent contractors make up a large portion of the transportation industry workforce in California. These independent contractors are mostly truck driver owner-operators and the major concern has to do with benefits truck drivers feel they are owed as well as being determined full-on employees.

The Ruling

On April 30 of 2018, the class action lawsuit produced an “ABC test,” or an assessment designed to strictly outline who can be classified as a contractor within the state. This will not only effect truck drivers, but virtually all who work in the growing gig economy (think delivery drivers, ride-sharing employees, etc.). The new standardized testing determines that a worker is an employee under the wage orders unless the hiring company establishes all three of these factors:

  • The worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work
  • The worker executes work outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business
  • The worker is engaged in an independently established trade of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity

Essentially, the test assumes almost all workers are employees and eligible for the wide protections of California wage laws including overtime pay, meal breaks and minimum wage.

Another benefit workers are vying for are insurance options. From dental to medical, independent contractors are looking for the right coverage, especially given the dangerous nature of the trucking business. And while this is something that is still being volleyed back and forth by the court system in California, trucking companies can invest in commercial truck insurance to provide their own protection.

Having commercial truck insurance will help provide trucking companies with the protection needed to financially safeguarded against injuries drivers sustain on the job.

Gaining Opposition

The Western States Trucking Association has been looking at the idea of legality of the entire trucking industry in the state. The association pushed for a lawsuit filed earlier this past year against California over potential enforcement of the new ruling.

Western States has argued that the ruling violates federal law governing interstate transportation. The group is hoping for a long-term solution to the issue, to push the state legislature to act and correct the court’s decision to require testing.

The California Chamber of Commerce is also working to limit the effect of the ruling, especially since some of its members include trucking companies. The chamber has put together rallies at the state capital in Sacramento supporting workers’ right to choose to operate as independent contractors. Some motor carriers are considering changes to their operations after the ruling as well by turning over hiring to a brokerage firm for example.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates and coverage changes.

Why Pollution Coverage is Necessary for Trucking Operations

Trucking companies that invest in a standard truck insurance policy may find adequate coverage against liability claims related to accidents and cargo, but typically don’t have protection against claims related to pollution. It’s no secret that semi trucks emit more pollutants the average car on the highway and some trucking companies have suffered having this exclusion.

With a sharper eye on the trucking industry and its impact on the environment, new players are coming into view to try to alter the impact of semi’s on the road, such as the electric Tesla semi. Regardless of emissions, trucking companies currently on the road today need to understand just how important pollution coverage is in a packaged insurance policy.

Regulation

In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency announced settlements with three major companies in regards to penalties for violating the state’s truck and bus regulation.

Diesel emissions from trucks are a large source of pollution, relating to health issues like asthma and cardiovascular effects in adults. Many heavy duty trucks are older vehicles and emit high amounts of pollutants. Totaling more than $200,000, the fines pointed out that the companies either failed to install particulate filters on their diesel trucks or failed to verify that trucks they hired for use complied with state rule.

Pollution Conditions

Even if trucking companies aren’t known for shipping hazardous cargo, such as waste, and instead known for trucking harmless natural materials, they have the potential to cause conditions related to pollution.

In recent years, the definition of pollutants has widened to include dirt and rocks. This is due to the Clean Water ACT (CWA) from federal environmental regulations, which put the term on those materials because they could possibly contaminate the water of a new area they’ve been shipped to. There are endorsements, such as MSC-90, that trucking companies can add to their current policies to make sure their inventory and business are safe.

Upset or Overturn

If an accident on the road involves a commercial vehicle that’s hauling hazardous or pollutant materials, this could spell trouble for the trucking company. If a tanker truck, for instance, is damaged in said accident, spilling some of its cargo (i.e. pollutants) on the road, there are costly repercussions associated with this. Property damage rates can skyrocket and repairs to vehicles can be another hindrance toward a commercial trucking company’s bottom line.

With the right coverage, your business can be safeguarded against environmental claims, cleanup costs, and claims of bodily injury or property damage.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is a commercial truck insurance agency with roots dating back to 1954. We have evolved into a highly respected, professionally managed, truck and transportation insurance brokerage. The hallmark of our organization is our desire to provide unparalleled service. We go way beyond what you expect to receive from an insurance brokerage. Equipped with state of the art automation, Western Truck Insurance can provide you with lightning fast truck insurance quotes, customer service, Insurance certificates and coverage changes.

Explaining the Most Important Trucking Bonds

As a trucking company, depending on your state and the type of trucking business you operate, you may be required to be issued one of a variety of bonds, also known as a “surety” bond. Four of the most common trucking bonds are C.O.D. bonds, motor vehicle registration bonds, U.S. Customs bonds, and freight broker bonds. The following information will give you a basic overview of those types of bonds and when they would be necessary for your operation.

COD Bond

COD bonds are also known as Collect on Delivery bonds. With a COD bond, a surety company will provide the obligee a guarantee that clients, vendors, customers and employees will provide payment for financial damages in the event that a licensed business violates licensing laws. The purpose of these bonds is to allow the trucker to deliver freight and collect the shipers payment for the goods being delivered from the consignee (also known as the receiver).

Here’s how these bonds work. The bond will pay up to the bond amount stipulated on the bond form. The surety company reviews claims from the public to determine the validity of their claim, however, the licensed business owner is still responsible for their actions and must reimburse the bond company for payments made of face license suspension. The bond company also directly receives claims from the public and determines the validity of claims.

Ultimately, the licensed business owners are responsible for their actions and required by law to reimburse the surety company for any payments made under the bond or face indefinite license suspension.

Motor Vehicle Registration Bond

Motor Vehicle Registration bonds, also called service bonds, must be issued by an insurance carrier admitted by your specific state. The insurance company issuing any surety bond is referred to as the “bond company” or “surety company”. The trucking company business is called the Principal, the bond company is known as the Obligor and the State Department of Motor Vehicles is the Obligee.

In the event that the Principal violates licensing law, the bond pays the vendors, employees, and customers financial damages up to the amount stated on the surety form. The purpose of this bond is providing the shippers with a guarantee of them receiving their payment from the trucking company.

U.S. Customs Bond

U.S. Customs bond is a financial guaranty between 3 parties: the Principal filing the bond, the Insurance company issuing the bond, and Customs & Border Protection (CBP). The bond is a guarantee to Customs & Border Protection that they can seek financial compensation up to the bond amount in the event that they aren’t able to collect money due from the Principal. The bond indemnifies the surety company, which allows them to collect from the Principal any money that was paid to CBP on the Principal’s behalf, using any legal means.

Freight Broker Bond

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has a requirement that forwarders and freight brokers secure a freight broker bond as part of their freight brokerage licensing process. The bond is meant to protect motor carriers and shippers and the contractual obligations they have with freight brokers.  For example, if a freight broker refuses or delays payment unreasonably, the freight broker bond ensures that shippers and carriers receive compensation.

If you have questions about trucking bonds or any other truck insurance needs, we have the answers. Give us a call today for more information about these forms of coverage.

About Western Truck Insurance Services

Western Truck Insurance Services is much more than a commercial truck insurance agency. Since 1954, we have provided our clients with unparalleled service for truck insurance quotes, customer service, coverage charges, insurance certificates, and more. We are committed to providing our clients with the service to keep their costs to the minimum and their opportunities to the maximum. For more information about our products and services, give us a call at (800) 937-8785 to speak with one of our experts.

What Drivers Need to Know About Personal Conveyance

Personal conveyance has been an issue for truckers and truck owners, and now the FMCSA has responded.

For many trucking companies, December of 2017 marked the beginning in a whole new, electronically monitored, era in trucking. December was the deadline when companies were required to provide an Electronic Logging Device (or ELD) in each truck. Though the tiny flash drive type device plugged into the engine control module of the truck does not look like much, many truckers have stated publicly that this new mandated “mini boss” has made life more difficult instead of having the intended effect of making America’s highways and byways a little safer.

The ELD Deadline has Passed, now what?

Why the Mandate?

Those who support the new law insist that it makes perfect sense to replace the decades-old practice of having drivers record their own hours of service in a paper logbook. Some state that the new electronic logs will be more accurate while others insist they will be more difficult to rewrite when extra time is needed. They also insist that drivers will save time because they will not need to compile so much paperwork and that dispatchers will have a reduced workload with the ability to see all electronic information at a glance.

What is the Reality?

In reality, the hours of service that truckers are allowed to be behind the wheel have not changed. These current hours of service rules state that a driver may be on duty for 14 hours out of 24 but must then spend 10 off-duty hours before driving again. And while this sounds reasonable to most individuals, truck drivers and fleet operators know that current hours of service regulations combined with ELD regulations have brought a host of unanticipated problems. Sadly, these problems cost carriers money, time, and the ability to earn a living as kinks in the system are being worked out.

Faulty ELD Systems

Anyone who says they have never seen technology fail might not understand what technology actually is. The FMSCA reported in March of 2018 that more than 300 ELD devices on the market do not even meet the specifications needed so a driver can show logged hours to a member of law enforcement if they are pulled over. As bad as this is, it does not even begin to cover the number of units that have been sold and do not work properly.

There are too many drivers being ticketed simply because their ELD quits working at random times and they are unable to connect with the needed tech-support people. Some drivers say they have spent as many as 15 hours on the phone, both on hold and with a company representative trying desperately to get the required technology working. And this is time when the truck is still, the wheels are not allowed to roll, so no money is being made.

Add to this the fact that some ELD systems do not calculate hours or mileage correctly, some even showing that a driver is in an entirely different state and the new ELD requirement has had a very rocky start.

The “Right Now” of Electronic Logs

One basic thing that electronic logs lack is the ability to think, plan and consider as a human being might. And this leaves too many drivers dealing with a system that tells them to do x,y, or z immediately.  Drivers, however, know that this is not always possible.

For instance, when a driver is heading for a place to get loaded or unloaded and the system suddenly says that the 14 hours of driving is up, the system wants the driver off the road immediately.  Right now.  And this is simply impossible as parking a semi for the night requires more than just pulling off the road and setting the brake.

New Personal Conveyance Guidelines

Thankfully, the FMCSA listened to what drivers were saying about not being able to find parking quickly enough to satisfy the system and published some new guidelines about personal conveyance at the end of May.  Previous guidelines date back to 1997 and state that “laden” vehicles could not be used for personal conveyance (or getting to a safe parking spot).

The new regulations state there may be valid reasons for a driver to continue driving, whether there is a load on the trailer or not. The new guidelines allow for drivers to use their vehicles to get to a nearby safe parking place. To date, no limits have been set on distance but most drivers understand that they will be required to produce the ELD logs should they get pulled over, and that an officer has the right to determine if they have driven too far under the personal conveyance guidance.

Personal Conveyance Essentials

There are a few nitty-gritty parts to the new personal conveyance stipulations that drivers should know.  They include:

  1. The new guidelines are not legally required. A carried may decide to allow or not allow personal conveyance in a company vehicle.
  2. If a carrier allows personal conveyance, they are not allowed to place limits on things such as number of miles or times of day.
  3. Clear company policy on personal conveyance should be provided to each driver.
  4. Personal conveyance may only be used during off-duty hours.

FMCSA is Listening to Drivers and Carriers

At the very least, the changes to personal conveyance stipulations show that the FMCSA is listening to what drivers and carriers are saying about the new electronic logbook mandate. Hopefully, things will only get better as drivers, carriers and the government work together to find solutions that will truly make the industry better for all involved.

How Long Can Truckers Drive Before Taking a Break?

Regulations are in place for all commercial truck drivers to ensure they are not being overworked. A tired or worn out trucker is a danger to his or herself and everyone else on the road. The main restrictions on drivers are the hours they can drive and mandatory breaks. These rules are set by the United States Department of Transportation.

Duty Periods

The DOT breaks the time a driver is working into work and duty periods.  A work period is like a work week, whereas a duty period is like a work day. Because drivers do not always work conventional hours, DOT regulations are based on the actual hours worked and not specific hours during the day. So, for example, a work week could start at 5:00 pm on a Tuesday or 3:00 am on a Saturday and can be different for every trucker.

There is a seven-day work period for truck drivers. Drivers can work seven days in a row but must have a break of at least 34 hours in a row before starting a new seven day work period. To understand this better, consider this schedule:

  • Bert ends his seven day work period on Sunday at 6:00 pm. Following the 34 hour rule, his start up time would be 4:00 am on Tuesday.

The work period runs from the start time and date to that date and time the next week. For example:

  • If a driver begins the work period at 6:00 am on Sunday, then it ends at 6:00 am the next Sunday.

To begin a new work period, a trucker must have ten hours off work. The total number of hours that can be worked in a work period is 60.

Each duty period lasts 14 hours, which is known as the 14-hour rule. Drivers can drive for up to 11 hours during the duty period. However, after driving for eight hours, the driver must take a break of at least 30 minutes. Breaks of any kind count against the 14 hours duty period time. Here’s an example of a daily schedule that follows this rule:

  • Bert starts his work day at 6:00 am.
  • Bert takes a 30 minute break after eight hours at 2:00 pm.
  • He then drives from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
  • He takes another break to eat dinner from 4:00 pm until 5:30 pm.
  • Bert only has one more hour that he can drive, so he drives from 5:30 pm until 6:30 pm, at which time he reaches his destination.
  • Bert may then work unloading the truck or doing other non-driving duties until 8:00 pm when his 14 hour period is over.

So, the driver can drive for 11 of the 14 hours and do other things, such as getting fuel, for the other three hours. At the 14 hour limit, though, the driver can no longer drive and must take 10 hours off before starting a new duty period.

Exceptions

As with most things, there are exceptions to the basic rules. If a driver is starting and ending at the same location for a one day assignment, then the driver may work 16 hours. The actually driving time, though, is still limited to 11 hours. If there is a lay-over, then this exception cannot be used. This can only be used once in a period and requires a 34 hour break before it can be used again.

Bad weather can slow a truck down, so this can also cause an exception to be allowed. If road conditions are bad, a driver can take up to two extra driving hours during his or her duty period. The 14-hour duty period limit, though, still stands. This exception can only be taken when the extra driving hours are needed to reach a safe place to stop and get off the road.

Penalties

If a driver does not comply with DOT rules on breaks and work hours, there are penalties that will be assessed. These include:

  • Revocation of driving privileges until a rest break is complete
  • Fines at the state and federal levels
  • Reduction in carrier’s safety rating

A carrier may face even stiffer penalties at the federal level, especially if it is found to have knowingly made drivers break the law.

Possible Changes

It can be tough for drivers to maintain the hour and break requirements, especially when under pressure to get loads to their destinations on time. Many find the 14-hour rule to be especially difficult when break times are included against it.

Because of this, some lawmakers think there is a need for changes in the DOT hours of service. A bill, called the REST Act, is currently being proposed to change the ruling on breaks counting against the 14-hour limit. The act seeks to give drivers up to a three consecutive hour break period that does not count towards their 14 hours. The Act also aims to use this new three hour break to eliminate the 30 minute break requirement.

Regardless of whether changes occur or not, DOT is strict about the hours a trucker can drive. This is to help prevent them from driving when tired or otherwise unable to pay proper attention to the roadway, thus keeping everyone on the road safer.