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April 7, 2015

Modifications to Brazil's Truck Driver Law take Effect April 17th

One of the complaints expressed by Brazilian truck drivers during the recent nationwide truck driver strike was that they considered the new truck driver law overly burdensome. They felt it put too many restrictions on drivers and it increased their cost of operations. During the recent negotiations, the government agreed to modify the law and the new modifications will take effect on April 17th.

The one modification that will have immediate economic benefits for the drivers is that tolls will now be charged for axles that are actually carrying a load. The tolls in Brazil are charged for the number of axles on the vehicle, but when traveling empty, drivers may suspend one or two of the axles. With the new modifications, those suspended axles will no longer be charged a toll. This is important for long-haul drivers because many of Brazil's major highways are being converted into toll roads.

Another modification is the amount of time a driver may be behind the wheel between mandatory rest periods. Previously, a driver was require to rest 30 minutes for every four hours of driving. That has now been changed to a 30 minute rest for every 6 hours of driving. The mandatory rest periods were a point of contention for the drivers because they were being forced to park their trucks in unsafe locations just to meet the mandated rest periods. Additionally, under the old rules a driver was only allowed to drive 2 hours of overtime per shift. That has been increased to 4 hours of overtime per shift.

Other modifications include: drivers are now allowed to sleep in their vehicle, there are now increased tolerances for excess weight, for every 24-hour period a driver must rest for 11 hours but the rest may be broken into shorter periods, and other technical modification concerning how the log books must be maintained.

In general, these modifications will be beneficial for drivers in Brazil and it will increase the amount of time a truck will be allowed on the highway. As far as agriculture is concerned, these modifications are very important because 60% of the grain in Brazil is transported by truck and the new rules will help to hold down the cost of transporting their grain to export facilities. Ironically, part of the same negotiations between the drivers and the government involve increasing the minimum freight rates drivers may charge for hauling the grain. It remains to be seen if the increased freight rates will outweigh savings from the new driver regulations.