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Toying with Time: New HOS and What you Need to Know

Posted: August 1, 2014

By Heather Ness

Do you often think that life would be so much easier for everyone if Canada and the United States would harmonize their hours-of-service regulations?

You’re right. It would.

But it’s rather unlikely that there will ever be complete hours-of-service harmony. And the next round of changes go into effect July 1. And you have to be ready.

Drivers must be familiar and in compliance with the hours-of-service rules in the country they’re operating in.

If you’re a veteran who’s been operating in the United States for some time now, you’re likely accustomed to tailoring your hours to meet U.S. regulations on a regular basis. Now’s the time to learn about the two big changes coming in July: the mandatory break requirement and the 34-hour restart changes.

30-Minute Mandatory Break

Starting in July, drivers of property-carrying vehicles in the United States cannot drive if more than eight hours have passed since the driver’s last off-duty or sleeper break of 30 minutes or more. This rule is really quite straightforward. If a driver reaches the eighth hour into the work shift, and wishes to drive but has not yet taken a 30-minute break, he/she must take a break of at least 30 minutes. The rules do not specify when within the eight hours the 30-minute break must occur.

Timing will be key here in order to avoid multiple 30-minute breaks per day. For example, if the driver takes a 30-minute break after two hours, another 30-minute break would be required after 10 hours. Remember, these short, 30-minute off-duty periods will count against the driver’s 14-hour limit in the United States and the 16-hour limit in Canada, if the driver will be returning to Canada during the run.

It’s important to note that while in the United States, drivers can continue to work after the eighth consecutive hour into the work shift, they just cannot drive without having taken the 30-minute break.

Restart Rules

Also in July, the 34-hour restart provisions are changing. In order for a 34-hour restart to be a “valid” restart, drivers using a restart must ensure that the period includes two back-to-back nighttime rest periods from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. As you know, the restart in Canada is 36 hours for the 70-hour/seven-day cycle. In effect, if using a restart, a Canadian driver’s restart is going to be at least 36 hours to meet the restart requirements in both Canada and the United States. In order for drivers to meet the back-to-back periods, the restart period may need to be several hours longer than the required minimum 36 hours.

The U.S. restart rules will also restrict how often a restart can be used; once per week, or more specifically, only after 168 hours have passed since the beginning of the driver’s last restart. If a driver restarts more often than what’s allowed by U.S. rules, the driver must indicate on the log which restart will be the one that’s being used as the “valid” restart. Restarts taken in addition to the “valid” restart no longer reset hours back to zero.

In Canada, no such restriction exists; drivers can restart as often as they wish. So, how’s a driver operating between Canada and the United States going to handle this one? Well, there’s really no one good way of handling it. Canadian drivers frequently operating between Canada and the United States may want to operate under the U.S. cycle restart rules, as they are more restrictive, but ensure that the restart is at least 36 hours to meet Canadian regulations (for the 70-hour/7-day cycle). If drivers restart within the 168-hour period since the last restart, they must remember to designate which restart is the “valid” restart. Drivers do have another option, though, and that is to keep track of the cycle hours and stay within the cycle limits. In other words, don’t restart. Remember, restarting is optional in both the United States and Canada as long as day-to-day, drivers stay within the cycle limits.  

Heather Ness is a 13-year veteran in the Editorial Resources Department at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. As Editor – Transport Operations, her areas of expertise include Canada’s federal and provincial motor carrier safety laws and the National Safety Code. Heather also represents J. J. Keller as an associate member of the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA).

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