01/20/2012 11:48 am ET

FMCSA Sets New Rules To Encourage Truck Drivers To Get Enough Rest

After holding several public listening sessions, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has set several new rules in place to ensure truck drivers get enough rest to safely drive during their shifts.

The FMCSA decided to reduce the maximum number of hours that a truck driver can work in a week, from 82 hours per seven-day-period to 70 hours.

"This final rule is the culmination of the most extensive and transparent public outreach effort in our agency's history," FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro said in a statement. "With robust input from all areas of the trucking community, coupled with the latest scientific research, we carefully crafted a rule acknowledging that when truckers are rested, alert and focused on safety, it makes our roadways safer."

In addition, truck drivers must take a break of at least 30 minutes after working eight hours, the FMCSA decided. Drivers can also take half-hour breaks anytime they need to during the first eight hours of driving.

The FMCSA said that drivers can continue to drive up to 11 hours per day, though more research will be conducted to see if there are any risks with this limit.

However, truck-accident lawyer Daniel W. Munley, chairman of the American Association of Justice's Trucking Litigation Group, said in a statement that the rules are not strict enough to reduce fatigued driving.

"While the FMCSA does reduce a commercial motor vehicle driver's maximum workweek by 12 hours, the new rules allow drivers to get back on the road too quickly after working what is still up to 70 hours in a single week," Munley said in a statement. "This rest period is too short. Long-haul drivers will remain fatigued as they get back to work."

The FMCSA also implemented a rule that truck drivers who work the maximum hours a week must rest for at least two nights after between 1 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The FMCSA explained further:

This rest requirement is part of the rule's "34-hour restart" provision that allows drivers to restart the clock on their work week by taking at least 34 consecutive hours off-duty. The final rule allows drivers to use the restart provision only once during a seven-day period.

There are financial repercussions for drivers who do not abide by the new rules. An article posted on the Injury Board Blog Network reported that the rule is set to kick in in July.