Approximately 130,000 people suffer from injuries in semi-truck accidents annually. Due to the massive size and weight of semi trucks, legislators took it upon themselves to help mitigate traffic risks in 2013 with the implementation of the 34-hour restart period.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) introduced this new rule, which detailed requirements for how long truck drivers can work before they must take a break. Under the previous rules, truckers were required to take a break after working eight consecutive hours.
This change greatly impacts semi-truck drivers in Houston who often have to make long drives through rural areas all across the state and beyond. Keep scrolling to learn all about the restart period and how to stay compliant with your Hours of Service.
What Is the 34-Hour Restart Rule?
Drivers who stick to a regular sleep schedule are more likely to be well-rested and alert while on the road. At least, that’s the idea behind why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) put the 34-hour restart rule in place.
This rule requires commercial motor vehicle truckers to take a break of 34 consecutive hours at least once every eight days. Hence the name 34-hour restart rule. Overall, this rule is part of the organization’s Hours of Service regulations.
For example, let’s say a driver is nearing their maximum allowed hours on their On Duty or Driving status. This is 70 hours in eight days. In this case, they could use the 34-hour restart rule to reset their workweek.
While this might sound like a hassle for drivers and fleet managers, it’s ultimately designed to keep both drivers and others on the road safe. The 34-hour restart rule ensures drivers have enough time to rest and recuperate before getting back behind the wheel.
Why 34 Hours Specifically?
So, why 34 hours then, and not a standard 48 hours (or two days)?
The FMCSA conducted studies before announcing this rule back in 2013. According to their research, they found that 34 hours is the optimal amount of time to reduce fatigue-related deaths and accidents due to exhaustion.
Is the 34-Hour Restart Rule Mandatory for Semi-Truck Drivers?
Here’s where things get interesting. No, the 34-hour reset rule isn’t technically mandatory. It’s simply a tool that drivers can use to measure their hours. That being said, many truck drivers naturally take a 34-hour break on the weekends.
Likewise, many semi-truck drivers naturally take these breaks so as not to receive a violation for Hours of Service. For example, let’s say you drive 70 hours a week. As long as you’re spreading those 70 hours out evenly over your eight-day workweek, there shouldn’t be a problem.
70 hours over eight days is only eight hours and 45 minutes each day. While you’d eventually need some time off, you wouldn’t ever be at risk of going over the 70-hour limit. Therefore, you wouldn’t need to take a full 34-hour reset.
Finally, even though it’s not mandatory, it can help drivers and fleet managers break up a work schedule. If you’re ever close to going over your Hours of Service limit, you can take a 34-hour reset period to reset your workweek clock.
Where Can Drivers Take 34-Hour Breaks?
They are free to take their break wherever they want. Drivers who wish to take their 34-hour breaks in their sleeper birth should be aware there are additional provisions, though.
For example, if a driver wants to take their 34-hour break in their sleeper berth, they need to log at least eight full hours there. Aside from that, there’s nothing that says drivers have to take this rest break at home, for example.
Semi-truck drivers can take their 34-hour break in a variety of places, including truck stops, rest areas, and airports. Some trucking companies even provide specially designed parking lots where drivers can rest and relax.
Regardless of where you choose to take your break, you must use this time to recharge so you can stay safe on the road. Take the time you need to rest comfortably to avoid fatigue and potential complications that result from accident lawsuits.
How Does a Driver Log Their 34-Hour Rest?
This varies from one company to the next. Remember, this rule isn’t mandatory. However, it is mandatory to comply with the FMCSAs Hours of Service regulations.
So while you might not be required to log a 34-hour rest specifically, you will likely still need to properly log your rest hours. This avoids any issues with the FMCSA and their HOS violations.
These violations can be costly, ranging anywhere from $1,000 to $16,000 per violation. While you might not be responsible for paying this fine yourself (check your contract), it reduces fleet profit and can lead to termination in some cases.
If you’re a driver and you’re logging your Hours of Service, simply be sure to record your 34-hour rest periods properly. If you’re using a time tracking software, log your break time using your local time. This will avoid confusion as you drive between time zones.
Exceptions to the 34-Hour Restart Period
As we’ve established, the 34-hour restart rule is designed to help measure the hours a driver drives within seven or eight days.
As a driver, or even as a fleet manager, this means that it’s important to know what does and doesn’t count towards your Hours of Service. Understanding this helps ensure you know when you’re required to take 34 hours of rest.
Here are three common truck driver activities that don’t count toward a driver’s Hours of Service.
Drivers who stay within a 100-air-mile radius (yes, that’s specifically an air-mile radius) of their home can use a timecard to track their hours instead of an electronic logging device.
If you are a short-haul driver, it is important to check with your company to see if you qualify for this exemption. For example, most of these drivers may not need to comply with the 34-hour restart rule as this rule is part of the Hours of Service regulations.
Keep in mind that you may have to keep a log book in your vehicle at all times, even if you’re not required to use it. That way, if you’re ever inspected by a DOT officer, you’ll have the documentation you need to prove you have been following the rules.
Need to move your truck across the yard but cutting it close on your hours? Yard moves are a special category of driving that exempts the time spent from counting toward drivers’ log times.
While you might still have to record the time spent moving your truck in the yard as On Duty, for example, the total doesn’t affect your Hours of Service. It also won’t affect your available working hours.
The use of a commercial vehicle for personal reasons is called “personal conveyance.” You can record the time spent operating your CMV as long as there isn’t any work associated with it.
In this context, personal conveyance is any time a driver spends in a work vehicle while not on company business. This might include commuting to and from work, running errands, or going to appointments.
As mentioned above, you’ll still need to track this time using an ELD. However, similar to yard moves, it won’t contribute to your total Hours of Service for your workweek. Keep this in mind as you learn to log your hours more efficiently.
What Happens If a Driver Violates the 34-Hour Restart Rule?
If a driver violates the 34-hour restart rule, the ELD will automatically record the violation in the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System. While that might not sound like a big deal at first, it can impact your fleet owner or the entire fleet.
As an experienced driver, you’ll note that this Safety Measurement System is part of what the FMCS uses to calculate a company’s Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) score.
A high CSA score can result in FMCSA interventions, such as compliance reviews or out-of-service orders. Depending on what they find, they might revoke a carrier’s interstate commerce permit.
Additionally, a high CSA score can affect insurance rates and lead to insurers refusing coverage for drivers. This is why it’s best to avoid any violations altogether. Keep the 34-hour restart period in mind and log your hours correctly.
Speak With an Attorney in Houston, Texas
Are you a semi-truck driver in Houston, Texas? We’re here to help you make sense of Hours of Service regulations as they relate to a wrongful death claim or an 18-wheeler accident.
Have you or a loved one been involved in an accident with a semi-truck? We understand the complex laws and regulations surrounding these types of accidents, and we will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
Regardless of your situation, we have the expertise and knowledge regarding semi-truck rules and regulations to help you receive the justice you deserve. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced semi-truck attorneys.