What New Truck Drivers Need To Know About Safe Haven Law & Adverse Conditions:
There is sometimes confusion among drivers regarding the FMCSA's Safe Haven and Adverse Conditions rules.
The FMCSA's "Safe Haven" and "Adverse Conditions" regulations are worded to address two separate types of situations.
The Safe Haven rule applies to acceptable parking locations for Hazmat drivers.
The Adverse Conditions rule applies to unexpected and unavoidable delays that cause a driver to run out of driving hours.
Most drivers will almost never, if ever, use either one of these, as they both require a very strict set of conditions to have been met.
As a driver, you should always, always, make the effort to be aware of weather conditions, or potential weather conditions, and other possible delays, in your immediate vicinity or in that which you will be traveling to or through.
Safe Haven - FMCSA Rule 397.5 Attendance And Surveillance Of Motor Vehicles:
The FMCSA requires that motor vehicles carrying Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 (explosive) material must be attended at all times by either the driver or another, qualified, representative of the motor carrier operating it.
The vehicle MUST be within the unobstructed view of the driver or representative, or located within a "safe haven".
This means that the driver must either be within sight of the vehicle carrying Division 1.1, 1.2, or 1.3 hazardous materials, or, it must be parked in an area specifically approved in writing by State, Federal, or local authorities for the purpose of parking such unattended vehicles.
The "Safe Haven" rule does not allow you to extend your hours-of-service in order to find a place to park for the night. It is also not an option for drivers to extend their clock if they run out of hours at a customer.
Adverse Conditions - FMCSA Rule 395.1(b)(1) Adverse Driving Conditions:
The rule states: "a driver who encounters adverse driving conditions, and cannot, because of those conditions, safely complete the run within the maximum driving time permitted, may drive and be permitted or required to drive a commercial motor vehicle for not more than 2 additional hours beyond the maximum time allowed to complete that run or to reach a place offering safety for the occupants of the commercial motor vehicle and security for the commercial motor vehicle and its cargo."
Adverse conditions are defined as "snow, sleet, fog, other adverse weather conditions, a highway covered with snow or ice, or unusual road and traffic conditions, none of which were apparent on the basis of information known to the person dispatching the run at the time it was begun."
Basically, if you encounter road or weather conditions while driving, and these conditions could not have been predicted or foreseen, the adverse conditions rule allows you to drive up to 2 additional hours in order to get to safety, provided that it does not cause you to go over your 14 hours for the day, or 70 for the week.
What Do Adverse Driving Conditions Mean For The Truck Driver?
Using the adverse driving conditions exception requires a certain set of circumstances. All of the following must apply:
- You unexpectedly run in to weather conditions or road conditions that you could not have known about.
- Your dispatcher was not, and could not have been, aware of such conditions when assigning the load.
- You could normally have completed the trip in the usual 11 hours driving time, and
- The exception does not extend the drivers hours past the 14 or 70 hour limits.
Again, the "Adverse Driving Conditions" exception can ONLY be used for conditions or delays that the driver could not possibly have know about. Driving into an ongoing, sustained blizzard, or driving through the center of Chicago, during rush hour and almost out of hours, will NOT count as "adverse driving conditions".
Additionally, drivers will undoubtedly need to explain the situation to their company, as to exactly how they were caught up in whatever the delay was, and why they used the exception. Normally, proper trip-planning can avoid most of these delays.
If I run out of hours because I was waiting at a customer to get loaded or unloaded, can I still drive to the nearest truck stop?
No, running out of hours because you were sitting at a shipper or reciever delayed will NOT qualify as "adverse conditions".
What if the truck/rest stop that I had planned on stopping at is full?
Does the emergency conditions exception in 49 CFR 395.1(b)(2) apply to a driver who planned on arriving at a specific rest area to complete his 10 hours driving and found the rest area full, forcing the driver to continue past the ten hours driving looking for another safe parking area?
No. The emergency conditions exception does not apply to the driver. It is general knowledge that rest areas have become increasingly crowded for commercial motor vehicle parking, thus, it is incumbent on drivers to look for a parking spot before the last few minutes of a 10 hour driving period. The driver should provide the reason for exceeding the 10 hours driving in the Remarks section of the record of duty status.