February 2, 2004
HOURS OF SERVICE RESTRICTIONS ON OPERATORS OF COMMERCIAL MOTOR VEHICLES
By: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst
You asked if drivers of utility company trucks are limited to no more than 16 hours per day on duty and, if so, whether this is a federal, state, or company requirement.
Utility company truck drivers come under hours of service restrictions if the vehicles they drive are of a certain size. These restrictions include a maximum consecutive hours on duty restriction. The requirements are both federal, for drivers involved in interstate operation, and state, for drivers in intrastate operation. The state has adopted the federal standards as state requirements by adopting the federal regulations by reference. Both state law and federal regulations have certain exemptions for drivers of public service company vehicles operating during declared emergency periods for the purpose of relief or assistance during major losses of utility service, a disaster, or a declared state of emergency. Some changes in the federal hours of service requirements went into effect on January 4, 2004.
FEDERAL HOURS OF SERVICE REQUIREMENTS
Pursuant to federal law, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has adopted safety regulations that establish maximum hours of service, both in terms of driving time and time on duty, for drivers of certain types of commercial motor vehicles (49 CFR § 395). These regulations apply to any driver engaged in the interstate operation of a motor vehicle: (1) that has a gross weight, or gross weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds; (2) is designed or used to transport for compensation more than eight passengers including the driver, or more than 15 passengers, including the driver but is not used to transport passengers for compensation; or (3) that transports hazardous materials in quantities that require warning markings and placards under federal regulations.
FMCSA recently changed some of the requirements and the changes went into effect on January 4, 2004. These changes affected the hours of service standards for drivers of non-passenger transporting vehicles only. Thus, for a temporary period, drivers of passenger transporting vehicles are subject to the old standards while drivers of non-passenger transporting vehicles are under the new standards.
Since your question involves drivers of utility company service vehicles, we are summarizing only the new standards that became effective on January 4. In general terms, the hours of service rules for these drivers are as follows:
● They may not drive more than 11 hours following 10 hours off-duty.
● They may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming on duty, following 10 hours off duty.
● They may not drive after 60 hours on duty in seven consecutive days or 70 hours on duty in eight consecutive days.
● Drivers may restart a seven/eight consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty as long as they have not exceeded the 60/70 hour on duty limit.
● Drivers may extend the 14-hour on duty period by two additional hours if they (1) are released from duty at the normal work reporting location for the previous five duty tours, (2) return to their normal work reporting location and are released from duty within 16 hours, and (3) have not used this exception in the previous six days, except following a 34-hour restart of a seven/eight day period.
Stated in simple terms, these rules restrict drivers to 11 hours driving time and prohibit driving after 14 consecutive hours on duty but technically they do not restrict the actual time the driver can be on duty as long as he stays within the 60/70 hour limits over seven/eight consecutive days. The 14-hour on duty period can be extended to 16 hours under the conditions described above. Breaks in actual driving or driving related duties do not extend the on duty time.
Two state laws directly affect the application of these hours of service restrictions to drivers engaged in intrastate operations. The first, CGS § 14-163c, authorizes the motor vehicle commissioner to adopt the federal motor carrier safety regulations, including the hours of service requirements, by reference and apply them to any motor vehicle or motor carrier that (1) is in intrastate commerce and has a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 18,000 pounds; (2) is in interstate commerce and has a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds; (3) is designed to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver; or (4) transports hazardous materials requiring placarding under federal regulations. The commissioner has adopted these regulations. Thus, the regulations have been extended to intrastate operators driving vehicles over 10,000 pounds, designed for more than 15 passengers, or transporting hazardous materials.
A second law, CGS § 14-274, prohibits anyone from operating a motor vehicle with a commercial registration or a vehicle for which a passenger or passenger and school license endorsement is required when such a driver has been continuously on duty for more than 12 hours and following such a period of continuous duty for 12 hours, prohibits him from driving the vehicle until he has had at least eight consecutive hours off duty. The law also prohibits such a driver from driving when he has been on duty more than 16 hours in the aggregate in any 24-hour period until he has had at least 10 consecutive hours off duty. Periods of release from duty must be given at places and under circumstances that rest and relaxation from the strain of employment duties may be obtained. An off duty period cannot be considered as a break in continuity of service unless it is for at least three consecutive hours at a place where there is an opportunity for rest. In an unforeseen emergency, the driver may complete his run or tour of duty if, but for the unforeseen emergency, it would reasonably have been completed without violating the limitations.
EXCEPTION FOR PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY DRIVERS DURING DECLARED EMERGENCIES
Both of the Connecticut laws described above have a special exception that applies to drivers of public service company vehicles during certain declared emergencies. CGS § 14-274 exempts public service company drivers transporting property or passengers for the purpose of relief or assistance in the case of any major loss of utility service, a disaster, or other state of emergency declared by the governor. CGS § 14-163c states that the safety regulations relating to maximum driving and on duty time do not apply to any public service company vehicle with a commercial registration when it is used to move passengers or property to provide relief or assistance in case of a major loss of utility service or to any motor carrier or driver operating a vehicle with a commercial registration used to provide emergency relief during an emergency conforming to the federal requirements for such exceptions (49 CFR § 390.23). The emergency can be for a variety of natural or manmade occurrences but must result in (1) a declaration of emergency by the President, the governor, or their authorized representatives, or by any other federal, state, or local officials with authority to declare emergencies or (2) a police request for tow trucks to move wrecked or disabled vehicles. Emergency relief is defined as providing direct assistance to supplement state and local efforts and capabilities to save lives or property or to protect public health and safety as a result of an emergency.