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February 17, 2015

Modified "Truck Driver Law" Passes Brazilian Congress

After the passage of the "Truck Driver Law" in Brazil several years ago, farmers and trucking companies complained that the mandatory rest requirements in the law were unnecessary and that they were needlessly driving up the cost of transporting goods in Brazil. The intent of the law was to make the roads safer by reducing driver fatigue.

The Brazilian Congress heard their complaints and a modified "Truck Driver Law", backed by Agricultural and Livestock confederation of Brazil (CAN), recently was approved by Congress. The new legislation is now on its way to President Rousseff, but is uncertain if she will sign or veto the legislation.

The original law restricted how many hours a driver could be behind the wheel with mandated rest periods while driving and in between shifts. Truckers complained that there were not enough rest areas along Brazil's highways to make the mandatory stops at the times required by the law. As a result, truckers were forced to pull over in very unsafe locations due to the mandatory stops.

Farmers complained that the original law increased the cost of transportation grain as much as 25% especially in states that were in the interior of the country. Many independent drivers refused to make long hauls because with only one driver, they could not cover their expenses with the mandatory rest periods. As a result, there were less trucks to haul the nation's increasing grain production resulting in higher freight rates.

Modifications in the new law now gives more flexibility to the mandatory rest periods. For professional drivers, the maximum continuous time behind the wheel was increased from 4 hours to 5.5 hours. For every six hours of driving, there must be 30 minutes of rest, but the rest can be broken up into smaller intervals. During a 24 hour period, the driver must rest for 11 hours, but that too can be broken up into smaller periods with the first 8 hours being continuous.

Congress also helped to ease the cost of hauling goods by making a slight modification to the amount of tolls a truck must pay. Tolls on Brazilian highways are determined by how many axils the vehicle has, but when the truck is empty and one or more of the axles are suspended, there will not be a toll charged for the suspended axle. The legislation also calls for more rest areas to be constructed on Brazil's major highways over the next five years making it easier for truckers to adhere to the mandatory rest periods.

If President Rousseff signs the new legislation, it is expected to result in a slight lowering of the freight rates in Brazil.