FMCSA’s Hours of Service Regulations

Jan 18 2012

By now, nearly everyone in the transportation industry is aware that FMCSA announced its amended hours-of-service (HOS) rules just a few days before Christmas.

While truck drivers’ daily driving limits remained capped at 11 hours, their weekly hours were cut from 82 to 70 hours. Another major change demands that drivers’ 34-hour restarts must include two rest periods between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Visit FMCSA’s website to read the final rule in its entirety.

This news of reduced hours isn’t exactly new to the industry.  For more than two years now, FMCSA has been debating with the American Trucking Associations (ATA), carriers, and drivers alike on the issue.

FMCSA says its goal is to “reduce excessively long work hours that increase both the risk of fatigue-related crashes and long-term health problems for drivers. A rule cannot ensure that drivers will be rested, but it can ensure that they have enough time off to obtain adequate rest on a daily and weekly basis.”

ATA president and CEO Bill Graves disagrees with FMCSA’s viewpoint.

“From the beginning of this process in October 2009, the agency set itself on a course to fix a rule that’s not only not broken, but by all objective accounts is working to improve highway safety.”

The rule’s effective date is set at February 27, 2012, but the date of compliance is still some time away – July 1, 2013.

Readers, share your opinions on the amended HOS rules. Who will be affected most by these changes? Drivers, what will you, personally, have to change about your daily driving job?

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The 7 BASICs: #7 – Crash Indicator

Dec 13 2011

Note: This is the final post in a series of blog posts about the 7 BASICs.

Don’t crash! That’s what safety is all about, right?  The seventh Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) in the CSA program is about exactly that – avoiding crashes.  And it’s obvious that the key to a good CSA score for this BASIC is easy – just don’t hit anything, right?  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The crash indicator BASIC is more complicated than it appears for several reasons.  

1.  The score isn’t public, but it still matters.

The crash indicator rating is one of the two categories of BASICs for which scores are not available publicly.  Carriers can view their own crash indicator, but the results are not available to the public. But they still matter, because crash scores can still trigger interventions, and when severe enough can result in being placed out of service.

2.  Not all crashes count. 

The FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) only uses what it calls “reportable” crashes in its calculations.  “Reportable” means that states have reported a crash in the past 24 months with at least one of these factors:

  • At least one involved vehicle towed from the scene with disabling damage
  • An injury with at least one person brought to a facility for medical attention
  • A fatality

Other crashes that might not be considered “reportable” are those that involve some property damage but no injuries, fatalities or vehicles towed away.  Theoretically, a driver could back into a building and cause serious damage to the structure of the building, but if no one is injured and the truck is not damaged enough to require a tow-away, the crash might not be reported or considered as part of the crash indicator.

3.  Some crashes count that you might not expect. 

One would assume that if you’re involved in a crash that isn’t your fault, it won’t count against you, right? Wrong.  A reportable crash is a reportable crash, and the FMCSA does not distinguish between crashes based upon fault or liability.  If you’re the driver of a commercial motor vehicle and someone hits you in a reportable crash, it still counts the same as if you were at fault.

4.  The full story hasn’t yet been written.

The FMCSA is still considering how it will deal with crash ratings in the future. According to their web site, they are considering the possibility of evaluating crashes for “accountability/preventability” before they’re used to calculate scores for this BASIC in the future.

So, what’s the final message?  Stay tuned, because there are still changes to come in terms of how this BASIC is calculated.  Meanwhile, the best thing we can do is to keep it simple – drive carefully, attentively, and do what you can to keep it safely between the lines.

So, drivers, what do you think?  We want to hear your story.  What’s your best advice for staying safe on the road? 

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The 7 BASICs: #6 – Cargo-Related

Oct 27 2011

Note: This is the sixth post in a series of blog posts about the 7 BASICs.



The sixth Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC) in the CSA program is all about your cargo and the freight you’re hauling. This category enforces safety and compliance with all cargo-related regulations.

As long as your load is safe, secure and within DOT limits, you’ll stay out of trouble. Examples of violations in this category include:

  • Unsafe handling of hazardous materials
  • Poorly secured loads
  • Dropped or spilled cargo
  • Failure to prevent shifting loads

The hazardous materials portion of this BASIC is well within your control. If you’re unqualified to run a certain type of hazardous material, notify your carrier. If you agree to take the load anyway and make a mistake in handling the hazardous cargo, among other serious consequences, you may be cited, resulting in a violation for your carrier and points added to your own PSP report.

The Cargo-Related BASIC is similar to the Vehicle Maintenance category in that they both depend heavily on the carrier’s responsibilities. Although your carrier may be more responsible for regulations such as weight limits, it’s still your duty to make sure each load is secured and stationary.

Like in the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, performing a thorough pre-trip inspection will help you catch any flaws in your load securement. Ultimately, regardless of who holds the most responsibility in this category, it’s important to remember to do your part to stay safe and compliant for the safety of yourself and others on the roadways.

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The 7 BASICs: #5 – Vehicle Maintenance

Oct 17 2011

Note: This is the fifth post in a series of blog posts about the 7 BASICs.

Vehicle Maintenance

The Vehicle Maintenance BASIC (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category) covers violations that are related to your truck and equipment. Anything from a bad tire to an inoperative defroster can be cited in this category. Although most responsibility in this category falls with the carrier, it is the driver’s responsibility to catch noticeable truck problems before they turn into major maintenance issues.

So what’s the best thing to do when you notice malfunctioning, worn or other unsafe equipment? Notify your carrier immediately and document that you reported a problem. Whether you send an email, take a photo, record a phone call, or note a problem another way, you are better off telling your carrier about the faulty equipment immediately rather than ignoring it until you’re broken down on the side of the road.

Another way to avoid maintenance issues is to simply perform your pretrip inspection. After all, it’s required by the FMCSA! Instead of viewing your pretrip as a hassle that takes away driving time, plan accordingly for it and take the time to properly examine your vehicle.

No matter what the weather conditions are like outside, how you’re feeling that day or how safe you think your vehicle is, you should always make your pretrip inspection a priority. Remember, your pretrip might not only save you from a violation and a poor PSP report – it may save your life.

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The 7 BASICs: #4 – Controlled Substances and Alcohol

Oct 13 2011

Note: This is the fourth post in a series of blog posts about the 7 BASICs.

Controlled Substances and Alcohol

While parked at your childhood hometown one evening, you and an old friend decide to grab a few beers and catch up before you have to deliver your load the next morning. You head to bed a little later and a little more intoxicated than planned.

You wake up early to cover the last leg of your journey and are pulled over for a routine DOT inspection. The official notices your bloodshot eyes and groggy demeanor and asks you to take an alcohol test. Your test results indicate you have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04, even after a few hours of sleep, and you’re immediately taken off duty, cited for being under the influence and hauled off to jail.


This fourth BASIC from the CSA program is simple and straightforward: Don’t drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Drivers who violate this BASIC not only have serious repercussions themselves, but their carriers are also faulted severely for their drivers’ personal choices. In fact, most violation severity weights for this category measure at 10, the highest weight violation assigned to a carrier. Even if drivers have drugs or alcohol in their possession and have not yet consumed them, they are still given a citation when caught by a DOT official.

As a driver, your personal reputation and PSP report are at stake, as well as the reputation and SMS scores of your carrier. Don’t let one bad choice limit or even ruin your driving career and your record.

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The 7 BASICs: #3 – Driver Fitness

Oct 05 2011

Note: This is the third post in a series of blog posts about the 7 BASICs.

Minding your own business and driving to your next destination one morning, you’re pulled over for a routine roadside inspection.  You hand over your license, updated logs, endorsements and other paperwork, confident of your clean record and a successful pre-trip inspection early that morning.

But the law enforcement officer raises a question about your medical certificate. It’s shown to be expired and he reports your outdated card to the FMCSA, causing the violations on your PSP report to increase.


The third BASIC (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category) in the CSA safety initiative might be the most misunderstood of the seven BASICs because of its misleading name, Driver Fitness. At first glance, drivers may be led to believe that their physical fitness and wellness are the only topics being considered in this category. Instead, this BASIC is more concerned with ensuring drivers have the right paperwork to back up their training, experience and medical qualifications.

Specifically, the Driver Fitness BASIC addresses six subcategories:

  1.  Medical certificate – Make sure you have an official, updated medical certificate.
  2. Out-of-service orders – Operate only within your designated in-service hours.
  3. Driver qualification – Drivers must be qualified to drive a CMV.
  4. Endorsements and vehicle group – Ensure you hold the proper endorsements for the vehicle you’re driving.
  5. Multiple license – Each driver must possess only one driver’s license.
  6. Physical – Do not drive while sick; keep your physical examination certificate.

The sixth topic, physical, was set in place to keep drivers accountable to health issues. Although health factors such as BMI, weight and neck size are important when it comes to determining which drivers are at risk for sleep apnea, neither the FMCSA nor the CSA program have the authority to restrict any drivers from driving based on BMI, weight or neck size. Drivers must simply be medically qualified to operate a CMV.

Ultimately, drivers who have the proper paperwork are covered. Before your next trip, double check your medical certificate, license, endorsements and any other papers the DOT may ask for during a roadside inspection to make sure everything is correct and up to date.

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The 7 BASICs: #2 – Fatigued Driving (Hours of Service)

Sep 30 2011

Note: This is the second post in a series of blog posts about the 7 BASICs.

FMCSA’s second Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category (BASIC), Fatigued Driving, not only includes violations for driving while sick or tired but for violating logbook and hours of service rules.

If you’re hurrying to deliver a load and forget to update your logs, or if you’re trying to make it to the next rest stop for your break and exceed your driving hours, you may be cited if a law enforcement officer pulls you over for an inspection.

Remember that you likely won’t only get a slap on the wrist – your violation will be reported to FMCSA, causing violations on your PSP report to increase. The last thing you want on your permanent driving record is violations.

This category’s violations include

  • Operating a CMV while ill or fatigued
  • Driving more than 11 hours
  • Driving after 14 hours on duty
    • Other hours of service violations – 60/70 hour rules
  • Log violations, including failing to retain your past week’s logs
  • Record of duty status violations, including a missing, false or outdated status

The easiest way to avoid a violation and likely citation in this category is to manage your time. Make sure you’re keeping up with your logs, even when you’ve got to book it to your next stop. Allow yourself enough time to deliver your load and take care of necessary breaks for a restroom, food, showers or sleep.

What tips do you have for planning ahead and managing your time wisely, even when you’re stressed?

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The 7 BASICs: #1 – Unsafe Driving

Sep 28 2011

You’re out on the road and a four wheeler cuts you off. You get mad and decide to teach them a lesson by creeping up on their tail. Next thing you know, you see blue lights in the mirror and you’re getting pulled over. You now have a ticket in your hand for tailgating. And because you’re a commercial vehicle, the officer conducts a brief inspection and writes your violation on the inspection form.

This scenario is familiar to many truckers. But now, because of CSA’s new regulations, not only will you get cited for your careless driving, but your violation on the inspection will be reflected on your PSP report, causing your points to increase. As drivers know, the fewer points on your personal driving report, the better off you are.

FMCSA’s first Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category, or BASIC, is unsafe driving. The unsafe driving category contains your most typical road violations. Drivers can gain unwanted points by performing the following unsafe driving techniques:

  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Improper lane change
  • Inattention
  • Following too close

So what can you do to combat this BASIC? Simple: Practice safe driving. The next time you’re tempted to speed in order to get a load delivered on time or consider driving recklessly through traffic, stop and think about your PSP report. One frustrating circumstance isn’t worth a mark on your permanent driving record.

Was there a time that you were faced with annoying road conditions but you kept your cool by keeping things in perspective? Share your story in the comments section below.

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