Congress Passes Legislation on 34-Hour-Restart to Combat Truck Driver Fatigue


In this past week both the House and Senate have passed a bill that will keep in place the 34-hour-restart rules for truck drivers. The regulation was at risk of expiring this year after Congress inadvertently included language in a Congressional appropriations bill to remove the regulations from federal law. President Obama is expected to sign the bill to keep the rule in place.

The restart rule is a regulation that lets drivers drive more hours per week, under the condition that they take a 34-hour-long rest period to physically and mentally recover. Federal trucking regulations can be quite extensive, but simply put, they limit most truckers to 60 or 70-hour clocks for the week. These rules were put in place to keep truck drivers from overworking themselves and experiencing fatigue, which increases their risk of being involved in a traffic accident. The 34-hour-restart allows drivers to restart their count of driving hours back from zero after they take a 34-hour break. Should the driver use this break, they can accumulate up to 75 hours of drive-time in a 7-day period.

A study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is currently underway to look into the best way to implement the rule. The study is looking at what is most effective in reducing driver fatigue: a 34-hour-break that includes 2 consecutive periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m., and is limited to one use per week, or a 34-hour-break that is not limited by these restrictions that can be taken at any time. The researchers examined 250 drivers, and monitored the drivers’ schedules, crashes, near-crashes, alertness, and short-term health in order to assess which rules seem to produce the safer drivers. The data-gathering phase of the study has been completed, but the report itself is under departmental review and has not been released.

Once the study is completed, Congress is expected to put in place the regulations that produce the safest results. Currently, the rules about the 1 a.m. – 5 a.m. periods and the once-use-per-week limit are not in effect.

You can read more about federal trucking safety regulations on our FAQ page.