FMCSA issues guidance on breaks in on-duty time

Published July, 11 2013

tuck stopIn a language clarification from the 1997 guidance on hours of service rules, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is issuing Friday, July 12, an updated version of regulatory guidance concerning breaks for drivers.

The guidance comes on the heels of the July 1 effective date of hours of service rule changes and clarifies guidance it says has an “effect of discouraging drivers from taking breaks during the work day, or documenting such breaks in their logbooks.” Among other changes, the new regulations require drivers take a 30-minute break every eight hours on duty.

The two new conditions that FMCSA says must be met to record meal and other routine stops made during on-duty hours as off-duty break time:

(1)”The driver is relieved of all duty and responsibility for the care and custody of the vehicle, its accessories, and any cargo or passengers it may be carrying.”

(2) “During the stop, and for the duration of the stop, the driver must be at liberty to pursue activities of his/her own choosing.

The 1997 guidance includes requirements for written instructions from a drivers’ employers concerning breaks and are inconsistent with FMCSA rules, the agency says. The new guidance, says the agency’s notice, attempts to make clear to carriers that they do not need to provide guidance to drivers — written or verbal — regarding specifics as to when and where they can take rest breaks.

“While FMCSA has not received any requests for clarification of the guidance, the agency believes it is out-of-date and no longer provides practical assistance to motor carriers attempting to achieve compliance with HOS rules,” says FMCSA’s notice.

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