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Truckers to Face New Cap on Time Behind the Wheel

The Transportation Department proposed new limits on daily hours worked by commercial truck drivers as part of a settlement agreement to set new hours-of-service caps.

The proposed rule, drafted by the agency's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, will be published in the federal register on Dec. 29 and will be open for public comment for 60 days thereafter.

"A fatigued driver has no place behind the wheel of a large commercial truck," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

Under the rule, commercial truck drivers would be required to take two consecutive midnight to 6 a.m. breaks within their 60 to 70 hour workweek.

The midnight to 6 a.m. requirement would be part of the existing "34-hour restart" provision requiring drivers to take a consecutive 34 hours off per week.

The rule would also require truck drivers to complete a driving assignment within a 14-hour workday that allows for a one-hour break.

The new requirements may also allow truck drivers to log two 16-hour shifts per week, which allows time to load and unload trucks at ports and terminals.

Drivers may also have to count time spent in park as off-duty hours.

A draft provision that would limit daily driving time to 10 or 11 hours is still open for comment.

"This proposed rule provides another opportunity for the public to weigh in on a safety issue that impacts everyone on our roadways," FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro said.

Drivers who violate the rule would face civil penalties of up to $2,750 per offense.

Trucking companies that allow drivers to exceed federal limits would face fees up to $11,000 per violation.

The subagency started developing the rule in January, hosting public meetings around the country.

The court settlement agreement requires the agency to impose new limits by July 26, 2011.

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