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FMCSA Publishes Guidance On 30-Minute Rest Break

The safety, regulations, and compliance consultancy J.J. Keller & Associates reports that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has published regulatory guidance regarding the application of the hours of service 30-minute break rule for interstate drivers of commercial motor vehicles. FMCSA’s guidance addresses those who begin their duty days as short-haul drivers exempt from the break rule, but who occasionally exceed the short-haul distance or time limits.

Such drivers are subject to the break requirement and must prepare a record-of-duty-status (RODS) for the day. The intent of the break rule would be satisfied if drivers in these situations take a break at the earliest safe opportunity after exceeding the short-haul limits and explain in a RODS annotation why the rest break was not taken within the required eight hours of the last off-duty break of at least 30 minutes. The regulatory guidance went into effect Dec. 19, 2013.

J.J. Keller notes that, occasionally, a commercial motor vehicle driver will begin the duty day expecting to meet all the requirements of short-haul operations as defined in Sec. 395.1(e). Nevertheless, circumstances beyond the driver’s control may arise and result in operations that do not meet those requirements. For example, a driver engaged in short-haul operations would no longer qualify for the exemption if he or she is unable to remain within the required radius of operation—100 or 150 air-miles—or, in the case of the 100 air-mile radius driver, when the commercial motor vehicle driver cannot complete the duty day within 12 hours of its start.

When the driver first learns of the changes to his or her itinerary and subsequent ineligibility for the short-haul exemption, the driver may have already missed the first mandatory rest break of the break rule—more than eight hours may have elapsed since the driver was last off duty, or in the sleeper berth, for at least 30 minutes. To address this issue, FMCSA advises that, in such situations, the driver should not be considered to be in violation of the break rule. The driver should annotate the RODS to indicate why the required rest break was not taken earlier, and should take the break at the earliest safe opportunity. Ideally, this would be prior to preparing the RODS or immediately following preparation. Under FMCSA’s existing hours-of-service requirements and guidance, drivers would begin preparing the RODS as soon as they determine they are no longer eligible for the exemption.